I should really learn how to work with microcontrollers, seeing as they're so cheap and ubiquitous these days. The Atmel AVR chips are supposedly very easy to develop with -- it's possible to build all the development tools from scap, if needed -- and have a well-supported open-source toolchain.
Some ideas for microcontroller projects:
Unrelated project: ScavCode -- it occurs to me that it should really be possible to train an OCR to read, given certain expectations of the list format, well enough to process digital images emailed from a camera or cell phone. Also, I did plan to release the code this year, which is still a worthwhile goal. Look at Gocr and OCRad as backends, and unpaper as a filter. Alternately, look at WeOCR web service.