TCPC: Troppo Caffe’ Poco Cervello No. 9

asbesto | Posted 2009.09.30 at 9:39 am | Perma

Dyne.org, Freaknet.org and the Poetry Hacklab present:

Tcpcloghino

2nd, 3rd, 4th (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) October 2009, Palazzolo Acreide, at the misterious center “Lisbeth Salander” in the Palazzolo Acreide countryside

It’s Poetry! It’s Art, IT’S DELIRIUM!
IT’S ALL AND NOTHING, YIN AND YANG,
GOPHER and ARCHIE!

http://dyne.org/tcpc
http://poetry.freaknet.org/static/tcpc9

Now at the 9th edition, the “Troppo Caffe’ Poco Cervello” (too much coffee, too little brain) it’s a cultural and scientific happening that lasts three days where people from all over the world (and beyond) are meeting in Palazzolo Acreide and via the internet to share experiences, research, culture, poetry, art and science with the intention to create new and beautiful things to donate to the community.

This edition will have people from all Sicily and also foreign guests committed in advanced programming sessions, dissertations for beginners, scientific experiments, sumptuous lunches, enormous dinners and sleepless nights dedicated to the passion for computer science.

Poems will be read, poems will be written, everything and nothing will be discussed, weeds will be weeded, new weeds will be planted, debates will happen, decisions will be taken, all and nothing will be done!

Everyone can join, the important thing is to leave the brain at home and bring a lot of coffee!

For further details check the link above!

Categories : conference  hacking  meetup  party  presentation

site upgrade

hellekin | Posted 2009.09.30 at 1:54 am | Perma

Thanks to our night shift teamwork with Georgyo, we’re now running the latest Mediawiki, a brand new kernel and cleaned up the Apache2 configuration to avoid name clashes between sites. Yeah, it’s all behind the scenes and you may have missed it, but it’s done. :) Thanks to Astera for backup! Support Abbenay!

The Situation at Abbenay Hackerspace

Nick Farr | Posted 2009.09.29 at 5:54 pm | Perma

The one-month old Abbenay hacklab has put out a call for support from the Hackerspace community. In the spirit of ASCII and PUSCII, they opened up operations in a squat in downtown Stockholm. While squats are unusual in Sweden, this particular space has been able to stay open for a month.

We are however facing an imminent eviction threat and police pressure has been significantly increasing lately – with civil cops coming very often to take pictures of the house and sirens waking us up early in the morning. This call is asking you to contact the landlord to show support to the hacklab and the squat…

Herein lies a rather unique opportunity. While you may not agree with the politics behind squatting, Abbenay’s call for support is asking for an open dialogue with the building’s landlord, advocating on behalf of Hackerspaces and asking for reasonable accommodation. Here is an opportunity to purposefully advocate for a fellow Hackerspace, not by necessarily aligning yourself with the politics of the situation but by appealing to a property owner why it’s in his community’s best interest to allow Abbenay to continue.

Hellekin’s very reasoned and well-argued letter is a great example of how you can voice your support:

Although their methods are questionable, please consider what benefits you and your fellow citizens could enjoy from having such a dedicated team of goofy researchers in your capital city. Beyond the obvious press coverage…you would be surprised … how productive and ingenious these people can be, and how shaking and beneficial such an endeavor can be for the local community.

Those of you who have started hackerspaces know how difficult the bootstrapping process is, as well as how beneficial these spaces are to the technically creative and curious where you live. While your hackerspace probably took a different route in coming to be, consider that every Hackerspace confronts its own forming and operating challenges differently. Consider how you give and receive help at your hackerspace and consider that what Abbenay is asking for isn’t that much different.

While this post is a bit of a departure from my theoretical musings of late, I believe this is a fascinating situation with a good working solution that shows promise. Even if Abbenay is ultimately evicted, the mere process of reaching out to a property owner in another part of the world can help you frame your own thoughts about your Hackerspace and how the magic and struggles in your space relate to those in spaces throughout the world.

If you do decide to contact Fredrik Winberg, be sure to post what you said or wrote to the Hackerspaces Discuss list. His contact information can be found in the initial call for support. There is also a Facebook group you can join as well!

Categories : blog  hackers  hackerspace  organization
Tags :

Why Terminators will not win

nhitze | Posted 2009.09.26 at 11:10 am | Perma

This is a Story originally written by Smári that was spread on the net by some other people. I asked Smári if I was allowed to post it here, since I think it’s really funny – and here it is:

[Disclaimer: This is a bit of a joke, written last night as I was falling asleep.]

I just arrived in London after another one of those mind-numbing long haul flights, this time from Mumbai. And in my eight hours of pneumonia induced pain I managed to watch a delightful array of films that I hadn’t gotten around to, including the fourth ‘Terminator’ movie.

Two-or-so years ago, just before it became public knowledge that this film was being developed, I was visiting MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms when the makers of the film contacted CBA looking for technological goodies that could make the film more interesting. I’m sad to say that none of the more profound ideas tossed at them made the script, but either way, I think that the entire discussion contained an important implicit subtext which was lost on the kind of people who think that hurdling Christian Bale between flying machines whilst explosions happen is a good idea.

So I present here a short analysis of where the Terminator movies go wrong:

The first Terminator movie didn’t stretch things very much. It was a simple time travel scenario with man versus machine, a kind of crypto-luddite cumfest. It wasn’t until Judgement Day came around that the industrial model started to warrant scrutiny.

In Judgement Day we are treated to a view of Los Angeles being vaporized by a nuclear explosion. For the machines, this tactic makes sense. Take out major human outposts to diminish their numbers significantly straight off. Humans have very low tolerances for nuclear hijinx such as radioactivity, but machines, being simpler and more discreteized, can presumably take much higher doses before problems start to occur. Expose a titanium alloy to a source of beta radiation for long enough and sure enough it will melt or otherwise morph, but long before humans melt from that kind of radiation atoms in their DNA start picking up extra core elements, altering their nucleic structure, and causing their host to die a very brutal death.

This illustrates a model. Consider that for anything that is “required” for sustenance, or “must not be” for survival, there exists a continuum, and each individual occupies an interval on that continuum. The length of this interval is often called “slack”. More slack equals more likely to survive a lack of something crucial or an excess of something lethal.

Simply by comparing the average slack values and their 95% intervals for each individual species you can pretty easily discern the smartest set of tactics that can be employed by each side. The robots can go ahead and use nuclear instability, thermal radiation (metal objects tolerate high heat while humans like myself start to go all wiggly and faint when it’s higher than 45°C out), extreme climates, darkness, and that kind of thing to their advantage.

The humans on the other hand have a much better ways of dealing with machines at their disposal.

In Terminator 4 a huge 7-or-so-story evil robot thing came out of nowhere in one scene and started scooping up people. It later became a part of some sort of super-carrier aircraft. Each of these things must require a large amount of metal to build, not to mention rare earth metals, plastics, semiconductors, etc. In T-2 Schwarzenegger claims that he has a “metal” endoskeleton, without being specific as to which metals exactly. From what I’ve seen of the Terminator‘s Moh’s hardness, it is most certainly an alloy of something. Either way, Ferrum is for this kind of purposes a pretty aweful atom, and it kind of only makes up for it by fact of its general ubiquity. It requires lots of special treatment to be very hard, it rusts easily, and it is a crappy conductor compared to lots of other metals.

For proper construction of a Terminator you’d presumably need a bunch of metals: TitaniumCobaltPaladiumChrome, Copper, Gold, Silver, Tantalum, etc. Each of these metals is relatively easy to get, provided you know where to look. Tantalum is a pretty good one. Most of it is mined in the Congo, by children. I would be very happy to replace those children with robots, but let’s face it: if the robots are out to kill us, one of our best ways to kill them off is to keep them away from tantalum. Even if that means making a bunch of child slave laborers unemployed. Not being able to use tantalum for capacitors would mean they’d need to use other types of capacitors, such as electrolytic, which have worse properties for a number of things, and are generally larger and more fragile.

See where I’m going with this?

Humans are part of an eco system that has been around for millenia, and through our evolution we have managed to adapt our “slack” values to be narrow for things very abundant in our environment (such as amino acids) and wide for things that are relatively scarce (such as certain metals). We can survive without tantalum. The robots cannot. We can survive without electricity. The robots cannot. We can survive without most of the infrastructure we take for granted – it won’t be pretty, but honestly, you can stick a human in a Mumbai slum far more readily than you can stick a Terminator.

Humans are good at surviving the kind of situation where everything is messed up and ugly. Our bodies adapt. Robot’s specifications don’t change. Sure, you’ll have a T-1000 liquid metal thing every now and then that’ll cause you some grief, but honestly there’s no threat that the T-1000 can pose that a little electromagnetic resonance burst can’t fix.
When it comes down to it, the battle between humans and robots is not so much about sheer power as it is about controlling the industrial chains. Attacking the slack. And as long as robots require things that are harder to get than the things humans need, the humans will win.

Smári

This story is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.

Categories : fun  tech stuffz  theory
Tags :       

Seattle, Vancouver, Atlanta, and Alabama…

Jordan | Posted 2009.09.22 at 1:09 am | Perma

The Two Hands Project has been pushing along, visiting every space possible!

After the California adventure, we made our way up to Seattle. After getting in late, we met with Justin Martenstein from a hackerspace known as Saturday House. Unfortunately we learned that Saturday House is no more, and we discussed several reasons why hackerspaces can fail.

The next day we met with Rob, another member of Saturday House, and then Willow and Baron, who are starting a new space in Seattle called Jigsaw Renaissance. Baron was awesome enough to give us a ride out to Vancouver that night, where we checked out VHS. After driving us back to Seattle, Baron dropped us off at Bill Beaty’s house.

Bill Beaty is clearly a mad scientist, but awesome nonetheless. We interviewed him the next morning, as he seemed to know quite a bit about the history of the local hackerspaces. Following that, we talked with Noid about The Black Lodge (fomerly known as Eastside Hackerspace).

Having finished the West Coast portion of the trip, we shot across the country to Charlotte, North Carolina. Teleco Bob gave us a ride from there to Atlanta, where we experienced the beauty of FreesideAtlanta. Their space is huge!

The following day we caught a ride with Freeside to the Hackerspace Meetup at Makers Local 256 in Hunstville, Alabama. Great ideas were discussed, including things which could very well change the direction of hackerspaces at large… more on that in a later post.

Now that the chaos has subsided a bit, we are sitting in the airport, waiting for a flight to Chicago, eager to continue capturing the passion and creativity of the hackerspaces that await.

California is full of Hackers

Jordan | Posted 2009.09.16 at 1:10 am | Perma

I’m always surprised at how little sleep the human body can run on.

Between visiting Noisebridge, NIMBY, the reMake Lounge, HackerDojo, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, 23b Shop, Radish Research Center, Machine Project, Sugar Shack, and the Public School Project, we’ve barely had time to rest!

After visiting so many spaces, I’ve noticed a few things. At first glance, it seems that the only common feature of these spaces is that they are all different… but upon taking a closer look, similarities do appear. These places all share more or less the same core values; they realize that having a place for people to gather, share ideas, and create new things is vastly important.

I think I’m starting to get a feel for the nature of these hackerspaces. While there have always been places “like” hackerspaces that embody the nature of collaboration and creativity, the difference now is that these places are being created by many different kinds of people in society. In other words, hackerspaces come in flavors; some are artist inspired, some are entrepreneur inspired, and some are coder inspired.

It is refreshing to know that no matter who starts these spaces, they all seem to be teeming with the hacker spirit.

- Jordan Bunker (writing from the Long Beach Airport)

A passing of a friend and fellow hacker

astera | Posted 2009.09.13 at 12:44 pm | Perma

Dear hackers,

Just this weekend, our fellow hacker Leah Kubik, who some of you might’ve had the luck to call a friend, or the chance to meet at HAR in the Netherlands as part of the Hackers on a Plane 2.0 crew, tragically passed away.

The Sun writes on Friday:

A playful, late-night search for ghosts inside a University of Toronto landmark ended in tragedy yesterday when a 29-year-old woman plunged to her death. Leah Kubik, who was just two weeks shy of her 30th birthday, was found without vital signs inside a courtyard at 1 Spadina Cres. just before 2 a.m.

Kubik and a man were on a first date and were believed to be exploring an old building rumoured to be haunted, Toronto Police Const. Wendy Drummond told the Sun.

Leah was a fantastic cocktail maker, a huge Linux and open source advocate, and an excellent systems security administrator – her sudden death leaves a hole in the lives of her beloved ones, friends and collegues, as well as the hacker community.

Sincerest condolences from the hackerspaces team.

Hackerspaces and Money: Five Approaches

Nick Farr | Posted 2009.09.13 at 7:04 am | Perma

You got hackers. They want a fixed space. Now what?

The next question probably comes down to money.  The biggest hurdles to bootstrapping and maintaining a Hackerspace involve the management of resources that have actual value.  Physical places, even ones which are “free”, require the payment of rent somewhere along the line.

A recent post on the Hackerspaces Discussion list points to the need for the right structure for organizing and managing the finances and resources of a Hackerspace.  It’s a question each Hackerspace effort needs to consider carefully and resolve for itself.  An organizational structure needs to accomodate each space’s unique culture and reconcile it to the various laws and conditions in play at the time of formation.

The five approaches I outline should be a good starting point for a discussion on the theory of Hackerspace organization.  When I look at how Hackerspaces have functioned in the past and how they function today, this framework of five categories seems to make the most sense to me.  That being said, odds are good that many spaces will not fit “cleanly” into any of these five categories.  Categories are clean, nature is messy.  We have to start somewhere.

So, the Five Types of Hackerspace Finance:

  1. Anarchy
  2. The Angels
  3. The Owner
  4. The Board
  5. The Membership

Anarchy

A few spaces have functioned quite well without an explicitly organized system for managing money.  Anarchy, as I use it, doesn’t mean the absence of order or even the absence of money.  In this context, I’m describing spaces where needs were met on an ad-hoc basis by those involved.  There may not be official dues, but a clear expectation that everyone involved needs to contribute something to make the effort work.  Certain Hackerspaces in squats, temporary spaces, basements and other places that can be had for “the taking” are the most common.  These efforts tend to prefer completely voluntary contributions and eschew explicit expectations.  Some spaces that are officially organized on paper prefer to operate as close to Anarchy as possible, preferring overarching concepts (i.e. “Be Excellent to Each Other”) to specific policies.

It is possible to run a very good hackerspace without any kind of official organization.  Were it not for legal matters, liability and a need for explicit order and hierarchies, it might be the preferred choice.

However, lots of reasons make Anarchy very difficult and unwieldy.  Often, when dealing with lots of different hackers who have lots of different ways of doing (especially hackers who prefer structure and order) Anarchy just can’t work.  There’s also the matter of accommodating new folks who may not share the viewpoints and collectivist spirit that otherwise make this style a possibility.

It’s worth noting that spaces in this category tend to have a strong political nature to them.  While this is not an inherently bad thing, spaces that are intensely political tend to alienate or divide people who “just want to hack”.

The Angels

For me, this is the most difficult category.  Angel spaces are ones that rely on outside sources, those that aren’t direct participants, for the vast majority of their support.  Hackerspaces in Universities, sponsored by Governments or ones that operate in other businesses without an explicit lease tend fall in this category.  Other spaces that may have their own facilities, but could not pay their bills without outside “Angels” fall under this heading.

The natural advantage of an Angel space is that they allow Hackers more time to hack and less time layering on and cutting through red tape.  In a perfect world, we’d all be able to rely on Angels to find spaces for us and stock them with all the parts and tools we need to make really cool projects. Of course, we aren’t living in a perfect world.

To be clear, I believe every space should attempt to seek some outside support, either through donated materials, equipment, special project grants, etc.  Most spaces do this, but only a handful I know of rely on Angels for ongoing support.  As a boostrapping step, calling on Angels is great idea.  Recruiting members is often difficult unless you have a space they can see and get excited about, and sometimes you need some help from above to get going.

However, relying on Angels can tend to make groups lazy about their finances, collecting dues or taking other steps to ensure continuity if the Angels pull their funding.  Spaces subsidized by Governments or Foundations tend not to plan for crises like what we’ve recently experienced and end up scrambling to survive when the funding comes to an abrupt end.  For example, what would have happened to a space funded by a Foundation that fully vested in Bernie Madoff?

The other big problem is that Angel spaces are almost always more constrained in their activities than truly independent ones.  Spaces in Universities in the US, for example, are often unable to host parties with Alcohol or make an effort to recruit those who aren’t students or somehow officially affiliated with the host University.  There’s also the matter of spaces constraining themselves and their activities so they do not anger or alienate the Angels that support them.

Because my theoretical focus is on continuity and inclusiveness, I’m naturally going to be more critical of Angel spaces.  If you’re part of an Angel space and see nothing wrong with it, speak up and say why it’s an ideal situation!

The Owner

Spaces of old like New Hack City and the Walnut Factory and current spaces like Hackerbot Labs fall under this category.  This category might also be called “Single Center of Gravity” because matters of signing the lease, collecting money for the rent and being accountable for liability concerns generally rest on one person’s shoulders. They usually have help and receive funds from those involved, but the money and legal recourse ultimately flows through them.  Otherwise, the advantages and disadvantages of spaces run by “The Owner” are largely the same as those for Angel spaces, except the owner is involved and generally the recognized leader of the Hackerspace.

Owners tend to be the de-facto financiers of the space by virtue of being the landlord, responsible for improvements and manager of any activities to raise money.  The first Hackerspaces in the US were traditionally founded and managed by one strong personality who probably found it easier to “just do it” than make an effort to start a separate organization and go through the requisite motions to keep it going.

Explicitly for-profit spaces, ones designed to make a profit, are also often started and financed by single entrepreneurs who are ultimately responsible for their operation.  These business owners that self-identify their shop as Hackerspaces and make an effort to cultivate community (as opposed to purely customers) are a relatively new thing that warrants close examination.

As far as traditional, non-profit Owner spaces go, the continued success of Hackerbot Labs speaks to the viability of the model.  I used to be a much harsher critic of these kinds of spaces, having seen owners get frustrated, give up and call people like me in to help clean up and wind down their space.

However, we need to look at all the models that work.  It may just be that your local crew of hackers needs a solid focal point and a single leader in lieu of a more collective form of management.

The Board

Most spaces based on the Design Patterns will fall in to either this or the final category.  Almost every Hackerspace that takes a corporate form will have a Board of Directors of some kind, as corporate law throughout the world generally requires it.  The Design Patterns suggest that Hackerspaces start with a small core of persons who usually comprise the first members and, by default, become the first Board of Directors. 

If this small core of persons continues to effectively own and control the Hackerspace, it falls in this category, However, if a space takes the suggestion of the Design Patterns, and hands over effective ownership and control to all those who support the space equally through dues or other means, it falls into the last category,

Sometimes, this isn’t always what you want to do. The question Koen posed in his post is one worth exploring and involves matters of law that differ across borders. Koen’s example cites Dutch law, where a stitching is a board and a vereniging is a membership organization:

“The difficulty is in judging what is right. On the one hand, the democratic principle of a ‘vereniging’ is very much compatible with my idea of how a hackerspace should operate. However, a ‘stichting’ is a safer keeper of things like money and equipment. This might be especially relevant if said money and equipment are injected by external parties. However, the ‘stichting’ can not have members, thus there is no ‘membership fee’: any money asked for usage of the facilities will to the tax office look very much like an entrance fee for a commercial service.”

And herein lies one of the biggest critical distinctions between these last two categories. Do you give members certain administrative control in exchange for their membership dues? Or do you end up paying taxes or losing potential revenue to keep closer control over resources?

Of course, the specific matters of law and taxes and their inherent advantages and disadvantages vary depending on the jurisdiction.  In general, the key advantage to a Board is the safety of having more control in the hands of fewer people.  The disadvantage is potentially marginalizing those participants who support the space and aren’t on the board. They might lose out on a certain sense of ownership that comes with being a fully member-controlled organization.

The Membership

Most Hackerspaces based on the Design Patterns fall in this category.  Generally, the space is run by members who each a specifically defined contribution in exchange for the benefits of having an equal say in the space’s operation and special privileges like a key, locker, etc.  They decide how much to pay in dues, who gets a key, where to locate and so on.

While these spaces will still have a Treasurer to handle the finances, a Secretary to take notes, a President to preside over meetings, etc. what these officers do is ultimately determined by the members.  Ideally, every member supports the space equally, through work or dues and gain a sense of equal ownership over the space itself.  The members set the agenda, make informed decisions on how to handle administrative matters and give specific direction to the officers.

Of course, there are disadvantages to having a membership organization.  What happens when you can’t get a quorum of enough members to make decisions?  What if your membership is apathetic to administrative concerns?  What if organizing is seen as too burdensome a requirement?  Sometimes, as through the first example, the benefits of membership can be effectively conveyed through means other than establishing an official membership organization.

As a quick side note, there are some spaces that are technically organized under one category and functionally operate under another.  The classic example is NYCResistor, which is formally organized as a for-profit Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) comprised of the original founders of the space.  Legally, they’re an entity run by a subset of the members, putting them in the previous category. Functionally, the larger and ever changing dues-paying membership has an equal say on each issue and they meet every Tuesday to discuss business.  The decision to become an LLC ultimately ended up being one of convenience and expedience.

The example of NYCR highlights two things.  First, each space may fall into several categories for any number of reasons.   (I could make a case that the Metalab falls into all of them!)  Second, this is a theoretical construct designed to help illustrate similarities in forms of organization. It’s a starting point for a conversation, not an explicit means of dividing Hackerspaces into groups.

Conclusion

I believe every place where Hackers go to make things and socialize is a valid Hackerspace.  Building Hackerspaces that last and are inclusive is a particular emphasis of mine, as I feel every hacker should have a nearby place to go, make, learn and socialize with kindred spirits.

Hackerspaces.org is about bringing all these spaces together and inspiring people to build their own.   The aim of this theoretical discussion is giving people the tools and background required to make more Hackerspaces happen.  Our emphasis in discussion should be on finding ways to work together, using criticism as a means for identifying pitfalls rather than a blow to the hard work of fellow hackers.

As always, this is just my own milepost in a much larger conversation meant to keep Hackerspaces going throughout the world.  Please take it and run with it! The spaces need your thoughts too.

Greetings from the night shift!

astera | Posted 2009.09.09 at 9:05 am | Perma

Dear haxx0rs,

sorry for the short, unannounced downtime this night, as we were doing some maintenance on the servers.
As of now, everything’s up & rolling again! However, if you encounter any bugs [cough, cough], please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be right on it like white on rice ;)

G’morning greetz from your fave nightshifters hellekin & yours truly,
/astera

The Journey Begins…

Jordan | Posted 2009.09.08 at 6:00 am | Perma

Soon I may be visiting you!

Today I will embark on an epic journey with my friends Bilal Ghalib and Paul Jehlen to travel across the U.S. and Canada. Our mission? To record hackerspace history. We’re calling this film adventure the Two Hands Project… because along with everything else ever made, it will be produced with two hands!

Why are we doing this? As a member of Pumping Station: One, I know what a hackerspace is, but many other people don’t. If you are a member of a hackerspace, I’m sure you’ve had to explain it before, and it’s not always easy. If you aren’t a member, then I’m sure you’ve wondered yourself. We want to help explain what a hackerspace is, why they are important, and what it means to be a member of such a place.

So, we’re setting out to film the creation of projects, ideas, and whole new hackerspaces! We feel that now is an important time in the history of these spaces, and it is our responsibility to record that history.

For more information about the project, visit www.TwoHandsProject.com. I plan to blog here as much as possible along the way, so stay tuned for updates on our adventures!

Cheers!
- Jordan Bunker