Help Hackerspaces Happen in Cairo and Elsewhere in Africa

maltman23 | Posted 2011.09.27 at 3:18 pm | Perma

3-Day Egyptian Maker Space
Maker Faire Africa is coming up next month, in Cairo, Egypt. It promises to be a three-day mashup of Africa’s most imaginative makers. And, at least two Americans will be joining them.

Bilal Ghalib (co-founder of All Hands Active hackerspace in Ann Arbor, MI, and hackerspace documentarian) and Mitch Altman (co-founder of Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco, CA, inventor of TV-B-Gone remote controls, and recent recipient of the first-ever Maker Hero Award) are going to Maker Faire Africa to create a three-day hackerspace there. This will help the founders of the Cairo Hackerspace establish their forming space into a physical reality which, in turn, will help get other hackerspaces going throughout Africa. We have recently seen how important hackerspaces are in helping people in Africa live more fulfilling lives. Let’s see how much more we all can do with so little!

Bilal and Mitch received seed funding from Maker Faire Africa, and at posting time, 147 backers have raised $6,822 over the past two weeks on their Kickstarter campaign!  They need to raise $200 more in the next several hours (and any amount over their goal will directly help hackerspaces in Africa!). If you can give a $1, please do! If you can give more, please do! Any amount is great! (And they are offering some pretty cool premiums too.)

3 Day Egyptian Maker Space – Expanding the Maker Movement

Race for the Future! Design it, build it, race it!

Jordan | Posted 2010.12.22 at 10:58 pm | Perma

Race to the Future

Attention all hackers and hackerspace members! Do you like creating with atoms instead of bits? Would you like to win fame and fortune? The Alternate Power Initiative wants YOU to design and build an alternative energy vehicle! Their second annual “Race for the Future” will be held in August, 2011 in Whiting, Indiana.

This race challenges you to:

Build a vehicle that can travel five miles powered by an alternate power source and race it through the streets of Whiting Indiana.

Here’s a subset of the rules:

  • Vehicle may not be powered solar energy or fuel cells
  • Vehicle may not be powered by a device based on existing conventional automotive or truck technology. Piston engines, rotary engines or turbines powered by detonated combustion gasses are not allowed. Piston engines, rotary engines or turbines powered by other sources will be allowed. These gasses would include but not be limited to those created by using gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane methane or alcohol as fuel.
  • Vehicle must be self propelled (no pedal power)
  • Vehicle may not be powered by battery or capacitor stored electricity, (brake lights and turn signals may be powered by electricity).
  • Vehicle may be charged, (fueled or energized) before 5 mile trial but may not be charged, (fueled or energized) during run.

For full details, visit their website at http://alternatepowerinitiative.com!

Here are the rules and the entry form.

Better hurry! There are only 20 entries, and hackerspace Pumping Station: One has already claimed two of them! Who will be next?

If you sign up, please post in the comments!


An interview with syn₂cat

nhitze | Posted 2009.10.04 at 12:47 pm | Perma

syn2cat logo

First of all, please introduce yourself – who is behind syn₂cat and what do you do for a living?

While syn₂cat began as a two men project in August 2008, it has by now developed into a fully fledged non-profit organisation, featuring 4 administrative members and 4 additional officers. The initial founders, Steve and David are a freelance IT consultant and a political science student respectively.

Of the additional people that soon stocked up the syn₂cat office, macfreak109 is a school teacher in information science, xx5y is a microelectronics engineer, Bartek a post-grad physics student, Gunstick a sysadmin and Michel is a student in secondary school. We only now got reinforced by an 8th crew member.

So how did you come up with the idea to found a hackerspace?

The idea of a hackerspace was born out of desperation ;)
David felt that, should he ever have to return to Luxembourg after university, there’d have to be a hackerspace. Visiting the Metalab in Vienna, though only for a short hour and without much going on, was a key moment in filing that decision.

Though the idea of building a hackerspace was initially scheduled for after David’s graduation, we spontaneously decided to do it “right there and now”. Since then, the project has been steadily growing like an open source project, with its “developers” learning by doing how to run such a show.

What are your future plans for the hackerspace?

Bootstrapping the space is still the near future and once we accomplished that, attracting more people and launching projects will be our focus. One group will focus on youth projects to get more young people into thinking outside the box and begin seeing solutions instead of problems.

Another future task is to constantly shift the responsibility of the actual space to other, maybe younger, people. Although we talked about an “administrative” board, we are far from paper tigers and want to keep the complexity as flat as possible.

Why do you think is the movement spreading so fast right now?

It gained a lot of momentum by the Hackers on a Plane project and the incredible amount of hackerspaces growing in the US. The sudden US movement had its spark from some German hackerspace visits so I guess it was the Germans again ;)

Interestingly enough this amalgamate of people starting open spaces backlashed to Europe again to give rise to a new iteration of hacker- or open spaces. The movement is nothing new but currently it sees fit in the hacker culture which sees an imminent uprise. To get to the point: People saw peers doing cool things in cool spaces and thought – “us too!” – and started doing it too.

Another factor might be the rise of social networks which allow ideas to spread quickly, especially amongst technically minded people. Hackerspaces take the connections made online and map them into the physical world.

Are there any fixed dates for events at syn₂cat?

There’s a list of fixed dates on our website. As we use Semantic Media Wiki (SMW) quite extensively, it is even available as an RSS feed.

The next big things will be our OpenWeekend where we show the space to the general public and keep it open for 36h straight. Further, we are also planning regular Python classes and electronics (soldering) sessions, with another focus on attracting other peer-groups such as user groups , the Chaos Computer Club, miniature railway hackers etc…

And the last question, where can we find some pictures?

There are photos on our website – but be ready to be rocked by the upcoming “after syn₂cat” pictures!

syn2cat meeting

The Rights and Obligations of Hackerspace Members

Nick Farr | Posted 2009.08.19 at 2:25 am | Perma

With Hacking at Random now behind us, giving us a fresh supply of hackers excited about the Hackerspaces movement, it’s worth noting that the “Design Patterns” by Ohlig and Skytee are now two years old. Initially presented after the first Hackers on a Plane, and later revised for the 24C3 and other conferences, the patterns are still the best guiding theory behind the global Hackerspace Movement.

Of course, the theory must keep up with the practice of Hackerspaces. One of the things I enjoy most about Defcon, HAR and the other conferences I attend are the intense discussions on Hackerspaces and the theory behind them. One of the biggest points of contemplation in the discussions I have are the differences between members, non-members and other casual visitors to local hackerspaces. Many in the community don’t have the time or resources to build a hackerspace or become a member. However, it is these “casual users” that help breathe life and vitality into today’s spaces, the ones that ensure the success of this global movement and the ones I believe we have an obligation to support and encourage to make this movement sustainable.

In an interview for HAR FM, I noted my belief that Hackerspace members do in fact have obligations that come with the rights and benefits of building and sustaining a Hackerspace. While the rights of membership are clear, such as having a key, a place to build and store projects and other special privileges, the obligations of membership are something not often discussed or even consciously realized.

Since each Hackerspace differs slightly on members and the issue of membership, I choose to define a member as a person directly involved with the upkeep and governance of a Hackerspace. Most members pay dues to cover rent and expenses and share the obligations of administration, publicity, documentation and other duties essential to keeping a space open and flourishing. Without these members, the Hackerspace itself would cease to exist.

It’s worth noting that Hackerspaces have been around for quite some time, the most notable being the L0pht in Boston. Founded in 1992, the L0pht began life as a storage space for Oblivion’s electronic and excess computer junk and, as he describes, “turned into quite a presence”. The wikipedia article on the L0pht shows how its members functioned in a role similar to those in hackerspaces today:

As L0pht occupied a physical space, it had real expenses such as electricity, phone, Internet access, and rent. Early in the L0pht’s history these costs were evenly divided between L0pht members. In fact, L0pht originally shared a space with a hat-making business run by the spouses of Brian Oblivion and Count Zero, and the rental cost was divided between these.

The key distinction between a space like the L0pht and a “Design Patterns” Hackerspace is that the latter actively engages those outside their direct membership and the former exists primarily to serve its members and their interests. Spaces like c-base and the C4 that inspired the Design Patterns exist as a venue for the local hacker community, in sharp contrast with spaces like the L0pht and spiritual successors like New Hack City (San Francisco). The distinction is very well put in an article about the hacker documentary Disinformation, and the challenges the filmmaker had shooting NHC and Cult of the Dead Cow members who built and sustained the space:

The hackers are seen chatting, goofing around, and demonstrating their break-in skills at one of their said-to-be San Francisco-based hangouts, the so-called New Hack City hacker social club. “Said-to-be” because the whereabouts of the clubhouses that host the spare-time activities of the Cult of the Dead Cow is a well-guarded secret.

That secrecy made life difficult for director Backer, who was constrained by time, money, and few opportunities to interview his subjects.

“They were very strict,” Backer said. “They blindfolded us and drove us around for a couple days, going in circles. Finally we got to their secret location, and I had no idea where I was. They said we were in San Francisco.”

Nearly a decade later and just down the street from where New Hack City existed, Wired wrote about Noisebridge, quoting founding member and TV-B-Gone inventor Mitch Altman who explained how Noisebridge operates on an entirely different philosophy inspired by the Design Patterns:

“In our society there’s a real dearth of community,” Altman says. “The internet is a way for people to key in to that need, but it’s so inadequate. [At hacker spaces], people get a little taste of that community and they just want more.”

Noisebridge even welcomes non-members to come use the space, and Altman says non-members can do everything that members can (except block the consensus process). The community governs itself according to the guiding principle expressed on a large poster of Keanu Reeves hanging from the loft: “Be excellent to each other, dudes.”

The spirit of excellence from Noisebridge not only covers how members must treat each other, it extends to how members should treat the community outside their membership, those that benefit from having a space nearby. This obligation is not a static one, as new members are almost always casual users first. There are also many casual users that spend a lot of time in hackerspaces, perhaps making more significant contributions than regular members, but decline to officially join for many different reasons.

Without these casual users, hackerspaces run the risk of disappearing like the L0pht and New Hack City did. Being welcoming to the outside world helps ensure our collective success and sustainability, helps show the world what hacking is all about and helps feed and cultivate projects and activities going on locally and globally. It leads to more hackerspaces and more resources for existing hackerspaces. It’s the kind of thing we should keep in mind when we build and maintain our spaces, that we’re not just in it for ourselves, we’re in it for our neighbors and our world.

Where Tinkerers Take Control Of Technology

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.04.21 at 7:04 pm | Perma

From the recent article in the Washington Post,

At a recent HacDC get-together, Tim Collins displays his latest toy to a visitor. It’s a microcontroller, a $6 mini-computer on a chip smaller than his thumb. “This has more computing capacity than my first computer, which cost thousands of dollars,” he observes.

Microcontrollers are the glue that holds the consumer electronics world together, used in everything from kitchen appliances to cars. These days, the parts are cheap enough so that tech enthusiasts like Collins can afford to play with them as a hobby, but they’re also still complex enough that you might need help if you want to use one to build, say, your own personal robot. And that’s where having access to the collective brains of the HacDC membership comes in handy.

HacDC, based out of a church in Columbia Heights, is a sort of a co-op space for tinkerers, with about 25 members paying monthly dues of $50 to rent out the 600-square-foot space. For the money, members get round-the-clock access to the space and its collection of donated tools. Non-members are also welcome to hang out.

These guys are hackers, perhaps, but not in the bad, steal-your-passwords meaning of the word. Hacking, in the HacDC sense, refers to the act of tearing into the latest technology to build or do something not originally intended by a device’s creators. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a guy who’d figured out how to wirelessly control his Roomba vacuum cleaner with a Nintendo DS. That’s the sort of activity we’re talking about here. Read more…

Categories : hackers  hackerspace  people

Hackerspaces on Wired

astera | Posted 2009.03.30 at 12:42 pm | Perma

This morning, our neighbors at WIRED.compublished a really informative and outstanding article about hackerspaces, and NoiseBridge in specific.

wired_frontpage

From the blog post:

DIY Freaks Flock to ‘Hacker Spaces’ Worldwide

NoiseBridge on WIRED

SAN FRANCISCO — R. Miloh Alexander and Seth Schoen are hunched over an old pay phone whose innards are being grafted onto the guts of a Walmart telephone and a voice-over-IP modem.
Right now, the Frankensteinish hybrid looks like a pile of tangled wires. Somewhere in the mess, an alligator clip has popped loose. Schoen frowns.
“We really need to solder these down,” he says.
The two are working on a recent Monday evening at Noisebridge, a collectively operated hacker space in San Francisco. Across the table, Noisebridge member Molly Boynoff is typing on a sticker-covered MacBook, learning to program in Python. Next to her, Noisebridge co-founder Mitch Altman is showing two newcomers how to solder resistors and LEDs onto a circuit board.
“There are zillions of people around the world doing this,” says Altman, referring to the swell of interest in do-it-yourself projects and hacking. “It’s a worldwide community.”
At the center of this community are hacker spaces like Noisebridge, where like-minded geeks gather to work on personal projects, learn from each other and hang out in a nerd-friendly atmosphere. Like artist collectives in the ’60s and ’70s, hacker spaces are springing up all over.
There are now 96 known active hacker spaces worldwide, with 29 in the United States, according to Hackerspaces.org. Another 27 U.S. spaces are in the planning or building stage.
Located in rented studios, lofts or semi-commercial spaces, hacker spaces tend to be loosely organized, governed by consensus, and infused with an almost utopian spirit of cooperation and sharing.
“It’s almost a Fight Club for nerds,” says Nick Bilton of his hacker space, NYC Resistor in Brooklyn, New York. Bilton is an editor in The New York Times R&D lab and a board member of NYC Resistor. Bilton says NYC Resistor has attracted “a pretty wide variety of people, but definitely all geeks. Not Dungeons & Dragons–type geeks, but more professional, working-type geeks.”
For many members, the spaces have become a major focus of their evening and weekend social lives.
Since it was formed last November, Noisebridge has attracted 56 members, who each pay $80 per month (or $40 per month on the “starving hacker rate”) to cover the space’s rent and insurance. In return, they have a place to work on whatever they’re interested in, from vests with embedded sonar proximity sensors to web-optimized database software.
Altman wears a black Dorkbot T-shirt, a black zip-up hoody and olive khakis with large side pockets. His long gray hair features vibrant blue and red stripes, and he’s nearly always smiling. His enthusiasm for hacker spaces is infectious.
“In our society there’s a real dearth of community,” Altman says. “The internet is a way for people to key in to that need, but it’s so inadequate. [At hacker spaces], people get a little taste of that community and they just want more.”

I can most warmly recommend you to read the whole article here!
Congratulations to all parties involved.

And btw: As for today, we know of 101 active hackerspaces, plus 18 uncategorized; besides this, 64 hackerspaces are planned or (17 out of which) currently in building process.
And every time I see a post like this come up, a talk being held, a paper mentioning one of these spaces – every one of these times, more people get interested, and the long list of planned hackerspaces grows a little more.
And this is what makes me so very happy about Dylan Tweney’s article.

Build! Unite! Multiply!
yt, /astera

***

UPDATE!

Apache crashed

As for 02:50 PM EST today, our good old Apache crashed due to the WIRED article’s appearence on the front page of digg.com; shortly after temporarily fixing load issues, the database was brought to its knees.

digg

So, first off: W00T!!!1!!eleven

Secondly: We’re working on it. For the next couple of hours, however, only static html pages generated from the wiki will be served (besides this blog) – until we finalized the wiki optimization.

Again, thanks for all the interest. You people rock.

Hack on,
/astera

CCCKC Underground Lair Open For Business!

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.02.27 at 4:23 pm | Perma

I’m not one for posting press releases but this just puts the point across perfectly.

###

Note – This is the press release which we issued to a number of media outlets. You can watch the schedule of events become more refined by subscribing to our calendar or checking the events page. – jur1st

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Cowtown Computer Congress Opens Their Underground Lab

February 26th, 2009. Kansas City, MO – The Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) is happy to announce the opening of their Underground Lab to the public with a full week of events Beginning on March 2nd, the grand opening showcase the rich and vibrant community of creative minds in the Kansas City area. CCCKC, the first organization of its kind in the midwest, will serve the community by providing technology classes, donating unique projects to local organizations and technology assistance to those in need.

The week will kick off on Monday, March 2nd with an open house for individuals and organizations who are interested in learning more about the organization and how they can take advantage the Underground Lab for meetings, classes and other activities.

The creative talents of CCCKC members will be showcased on Wednesday March, 4th. The member project showcase will be followed by a screening of Make:TV, a public television series which will be shown for the first time in the Kansas City area that night. If you’re curious about what CCCKC and the maker culture are all about, this is the night to come be inspired. Projects to be showcased range from alternative methods of energy generation to a labyrinth game which is controlled with the balance board from a Nintendo Wii Fit.

Thursday, March 5th is the regular member meeting where members come together to discuss group projects being developed for donation to local organizations and plan future community service projects like our monthly free computer repair opportunities.

Friday evening will feature a slate of speakers covering topics ranging from improving home security and information management to protecting data from theft while using public wireless internet.

On Saturday the public is invited to take part in a range of free workshops on basic electronics and soldering, e-textiles and Nintendo Wii hacking. All day members will be available to assist members of the public choose, install and configure computers using the free and open source Linux operating system.

About The Cowtown Computer Congress

The Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) is a not for profit technology cooperative founded to advance technology of all kinds. They are a member supported organization providing technology classes, workshops and services to the public free of charge. CCCKC brings together some of the finest minds in midwest to collaborate on research and projects for other local groups. Through their affiliate program, CCCKC gives assistance to specialized technology user groups by providing them with a facility to hold meetings and work on projects of their own.

CCCKC’s Underground Lab is located 85 feet below the surface of the earth at 31st Street and Southwest Trafficway in Kansas City, Missouri.

http://www.cowtowncomputercongress.org

Further inquires should be made to:
press at cowtowncomputercongress.org or to
John Benson – President and Co-Founder
816-332-6389

###

/E.

What is a hackerspace?

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.02.19 at 11:26 pm | Perma

That is but one of the questions I get whenever I go out and the topic of what I do in my free time comes up.

So recently I had that same question asked but this time, Dave Hoffman of Davemakes.com had brought a video camera.

From Daves’ site
The time has finally come to unveil my secret project. HELLO is a new series of videos about interesting people. This first episode features Eric Michaud, President of Pumping Station: One, a hackerspace opening up in Chicago. I asked him all about what a hackerspace is, and why you should join one.

If you don’t have 15 minutes to spare, check out this quick 90 second preview of the interview.

This is the preview.

Preview of HELLO – Eric Michaud, President of Pumping Station: One from Dave Jacob Hoffman on Vimeo.

I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I do, by doing this blog and building hackerspaces.

Cheers,

/E

First TMPLAB WirelessBattle Mesh – April 11-12th 2009 @ tmplab

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.02.17 at 4:35 pm | Perma

For those that can make it to Paris for this battle of wits and protocols, it sure seems to be a rousing good time.

Here are some of the details.

******

“We are pleased to announce that the /tmp/lab  will be organizing a Spring Wireless OpenWRT Mesh Contest called “Wireless Battle Mesh” during 2 days (April 11-12th) with the goal of building 3 wireless mesh networks based on embedded hardware running OpenWRT and different concurrent mesh routing protocols.

The targeted architecture will be 3 networks of 25nodes + 1 wireless managment networks (10-20 nodes) to achieve realistic size of nodes number, data traffic, configuration problems. The architecture will be set-up indoor and outdoor around the building of the /tmp/lab.

OpenWRT will be the selected for the BoardSupportPackage running on the different hardware nodes and a core network configuration will be built on Linux servers with user-friendly features such as :
*VLANs
*Captive portal
*Authentication
*Admin portal

Concerning the mesh-protocols, selected targeted protocols are :

*OLSR : IP-based mesh routing platform (http://olsr.org and openWRT package available)

*BATMAN : Layer2-based mesh protocol (http://open-mesh.org) and available as a kernel module for Linux and packaged in OpenWRT

*BABEL : Layer-3 mesh protocol developed by University Paris 6, available for Linux and soon to be packaged for OpenWRT (http://www.pps.jussieu.fr/~jch/software/babel/)

Concerning the hardware node, we are looking for hardware sponsors that could enjoy this “real-case” contest by providing 50-100 nodes……….. More after the jump.

******

Looks to be quite a good time for packet heads and people with a lot of time with Yagi’s. ;)

-E.


Party Mode! HacDC Style!

Eric Michaud | Posted 2009.02.03 at 10:11 pm | Perma

Those of you that were on the conference call last Sunday were the first to be made aware that I’ve been working incognito for the last two months scheming, planning, plotting with fellow members of HacDC to pull off a really cool event.

For those that were not made aware, ShmooCon is an annual computer security hacker conference in DC that covers many topics, including 0-day exploits, Hack the Genome! The Age of Bimolecular Cryptology, or The Gentlemen’s Agreement: Pwning Friends Legally for Fun, ????, and Profit, how the Ohio voting machines were able to be compromised (a ’08 favorite talk of mine), and – if you have an itchy trigger finger – Hack or Halo.

So how does HacDC play into this? Well, some short background:
HacDC didn’t exist when ShmooCon was around last year, it was only spoken about in hushed tones till after the conference. Now we’ve been around for almost a full year with lots of stories to speak of.

Now at this ShmooCon we’re very loud and very proud of how far we have come and we’d like to say thanks to everyone by hosting the official ShmooCon Friday night party.

The details are forth coming but the basics are:

Location: HacDC Sanctuary (4 meters from the Altar)

1525 Newton St NW, Washington DC 20010 USA
(near corner of 16th and Newton NW)
Google Map

Time: 10pm till past 3ish.

How/Who: If you’re a member of a hackerspace or an attendee of ShmooCon, just show up for the festivities.

Venue:
hacdcchurch
This is where the action happens.

What to expect:

Three DJ’s:
DJ HSO
DJ Just Joshin
DJ Keith Myers

Plus a number of fun projects that hackers from other hackerspaces are bringing in to show off.

Party Mode On!
-E.

*****

UPDATE: Bring your laser pointers!  Shuuush. ;)