10 of the best gadget challenges – pt 1

Spring is here, and your new year's resolutions have melted away with the snow. Fear not – we have ten gadget challenges to get your geek life back on track...

Inside all of us, there’s a small, pudgy Hercules waiting to break out. But rather than beating up mythical monsters this Spring, your tasks for the new season are a lot more up-to-date, and hopefully a lot more fun.

So, here goes – the ten missions that will make this the best, techiest season of your life. Stay tuned for part two.

1. Climb a [proper] mountain

What were you planning for that week off in June? Put up some shelves and complete the extra missions in Fallout: New Vegas? Well, forget it. You’re off to climb Africa’s biggest mountain.

The mighty Kilimanjaro – a mere 19,000 feet above sea level – could be your greatest mission in 2011. There are several routes of varying difficulty; most take around a week. It’s a very accessible climb, but take one of the longer routes: a slower ascent minimises altitude sickness and improves your chances of success. Oh, and go with an ATOL-approved agency, such as The Adventure Company.

You'll need:

1. Patagonia Men’s Stretch Ascent

£220 | patagonia.com

It might be in sunny Tanzania, but the snows of Kilimanjaro have their own unpredictable microclimate, and a good jacket is essential. The Ascent is perfect – waterproof, warm, light, breathable and durable.

2. Panasonic Lumix FT2

£280 | panasonic.co.uk

If you’re hiking for a week, you don’t want a weighty, expensive SLR round your neck. You want the FT2, a light, pocket-sized 14MP shooter that’s immune to dust, rain, snow and lions.

3. Acetazolamide (Diamox)

Your main enemy on Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness. Some 75% of people who make it to 10,000 feet will suffer symptoms, and you’ll be aiming for almost twice that. Consult your doctor before taking any medication.

2. Make your own superhero t-shirt

Lots of people have a Punisher t-shirt. It’s a cool comic, and walking around in a black t-shirt with a skull on it is a lot more normal than walking around in a red and blue spandex bodysuit . However real superheroes make their own costume. You make your own costume, or you’re not a real superhero. Got that?

You'll need:

Fabric screen printing kit

£55 | handprinted.co.uk

Everything you need to print your own tees. So, once you’ve done one that marks you out as a furious renegade hero, you can make one that says ‘Will swap wife for beer’ or ‘Chuck Norris 
is my real dad’, or something completely hilarious like that.

Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt

£13 | store.americanapparel.co.uk

In black, obviously. Because you’re the Punisher.

More after the break...

3. Learn to bake bread

The fundamental foodstuff of modern, sandwich-eating Man (and Woman), bread is something you should be able to make. Happily, it isn’t nearly as difficult as Hovis pretend: it’s just flour, water, salt and yeast. You squidge it about a bit, wait for it to rise, and put it in the oven.

There are two routes: have a gadget make it for you, or make it by hand. The former guarantees fresh (and very cheap) bread every day, and is dead easy – you put the ingredients into a bread maker and switch it on.

Panasonic’s SD-257WXC (£100, Amazon) is highly rated and has a timer, so you can have fresh, warm bread first thing in the morning. The best bread, though, is made by hand. We’d recommend the book Dough by rolling-pin-wielding Frenchman Richard Bertinet.

A truly perfect crust comes from very high oven temperatures. A wood-fired oven will go up to a pizza-perfecting 425°C (home ovens manage half that); see fornobravo.co.uk for kits.

4. Shoot a 3D movie

Three ways to be the next James Cameron:

1. Get a budget 3D camcorder

Aiptek’s i2 (£200, Aiptek) captures two frames of 640x720 video simultaneously, producing 3D footage with perceivable depth that you can watch on its screen, output to a 3D PC or play on your TV via HDMI. For a bit more cash, try the Fujifilm W3’s (£400, Fujifilm) 3D movie mode.

2. Get a proper 3D camcorder

Panasonic’s HDC-SDT750 (£1200, Panasonic) shoots 960x1080 3D video of a much higher standard than budget offerings; either output direct to your telly or edit with the included software and burn to disc. It’s a superb 1080p 2D camcorder, too – 3D capability comes via a screw-on conversion lens.

3. Build your own 3D rig

Get two identical camcorders with fixed focal length, such as the Flip MinoHD (£140, Flip), a tripod, two quarter-inch bolts, a drill and a 15cm strip of 38x19mm plank. Drill three holes in the wood, one at the centre and the others 7cm apart from each other. Fix the camcorders to the wood using the bolts through the outer holes and into their mounts, and align them so their lenses are parallel with the edge of the wood.

Attach the tripod to the middle hole. Press record on both cameras simultaneously. On a Windows PC synchronise the streams using the Stereo Movie Maker software. Watch on 3D PC, burn to disc and play on your 3D TV or view with red and cyan glasses on your 2D monitor.

5. Build a major landmark (in Lego)

Clear your diary for a weekend: you have work to do. You must build Tower Bridge or the Taj Mahal (£205/£200, Lego) from the ground up. These huge models use thousands of bricks for outstanding detail and a Legoland-worthy finish, so you'd best get a big bag of Minstrels and a 24-pack in. Rather build something more culturally significant? Try the 3800-brick Death Star (£275).

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