A few weeks ago I came across a blog post by Cati Vaucelle about Making Things Talk, the new book by Tom Igoe. The book deals with building smart, communicating things. It is built up out of specific projects and uses practical examples to explain different technologies. Tom works at NYU ITC (where Adam Greenfield also works).
Through a series of simple projects, this book teaches you how to get your creations to communicate with one another by forming networks of smart devices that carry on conversations with you and your environment. Whether you need to plug some sensors in your home to the Internet or create a device that can interact wirelessly with other creations, Making Things Talk explains exactly what you need.
The book seemed really useful to me to learn how to build smart things and prototype a ubicomp environment. Unfortunately I was never really exposed to electronics, so this might be a good way to catch up I pointed Kris at the book who ordered a copy afterwards. I had a quick look at it, and I must say it is well-written and fun to read. You need some hardware to really dive in though.
The author uses Processing and Arduino as the basic building blocks. I was pleasantly surprised that the programming environment works perfectly under Mac OS X and GNU/Linux (while it also supports Windows). I would also like to experiment with it at home, for instance to build a remote-controlled mood light Apparently a Wii Nunchuk is also pretty popular for connecting to Arduino as it sports a 3-axis accelerometer, joystick and two buttons for under 20$ and uses the I2C protocol.