It was a squeaker, but Brian and I got the Make: TV Episode Dispenser to work in time for Maker Faire 2009.
If you haven't been following this project, the idea is simple. You're at Maker Faire. You've never seen Make: TV before. You have a USB drive in your pocket. You walk up to our quaint, blinking machine, plug in your USB drive, choose an episode of Make: TV, and download it to your USB drive so you can take it home and watch it.
Here I am demonstrating it, appropriately enough, to John Park, the host of Make: TV.
And here's an assemblage of video I shot of people using the dispenser.
We were still putting on finishing touches and tweaking code a couple hours into the first day of the expo, but once we got the kinks worked out, it hummed along nicely. About five percent of visitors had problems with our machine. We identified two circumstances: NTFS- or HFS-formatted drives, and FAT32 drives that appeared to have no partition table. If we do this again next year (if Make: TV Season 2 gets funded), we'll definitely try to solve these shortcomings for in Dispenser 2.0!
Thanks to Nick at Twin-Cities Public Television for his support on this project. Thanks to Brian for his help coding the software. Thanks to Don and Jason of Dorkbot PDX for their ideas and material/moral support. Thanks to James Provost for whipping up some graphics on super-short notice. Thanks to my wife for her user interaction suggestions (many of which I stubbornly ignored at my peril). And thanks to my dad for his woodworking help and various material contributions.