Hackmeet at Noisebridge

Last weekend, Noisebridge hosted Hackmeet 2011, a two-day unconference and skillshare for activists, hackers, artists and community members. There were lectures and group discussions as well as hands-on workshops and space for last-minute sessions which weren’t on the schedule. Several Noisebridge participants and Food Not Bombs¬†and others cooked vegan food for the whole group, and around 150-200 people attended. The Hackmeet organizers after meeting expenses plan to give some money to Food Not Bombs to buy pans, and the rest to Noisebridge for hosting.

If you missed Hackmeet and you can make it to Mexico next week then you could go to Hackmitin, another free unconference! Hackmeet sponsored a representative from Hacklab Autónomo and his talk on their activities was very interesting.


Hackmitin will be held just north of Mexico City, at Cereza in Ojo de Agua, October 28-30. Here’s a link directly to their call for participation. The focus will be on software libre – privacidad – hacktivismo – resistencia y desobediencia digital: free software, privacy, hacktivism, resistance and digital civil disobedience.

Here’s some photos of the Hackmitin taken by Mitch Altman.

People sitting in a big circle for a group discussion of technology and privilege:

hackmeet discussion

Morgan Mayhem (@headhntr) speaking on anti-forensics, i.e. ways to help secure data or delete it from a hard drive so it can’t be stolen, intercepted, recovered and read. Standing room only for this talk!

hackmeet forensics talk

A medium-sized audience for a talk in Noisebridge’s main room:

hackmeet audience

And some of the intrepid cooks who fed everyone for two days:

hackmeet cooking

Hackmeet organizers suggested that we might work with them in coming months to make some modifications to Noisebridge that make it easier to use for events. The main improvement, one many people have suggested in the past, is sound insulation for the different rooms. We could build up the walls between the shop and the classrooms, or put up sound baffles of some kind, or perhaps set up thick theatrical curtains to muffle noise.

Categories: Event

Let there be light

Today at Noisebridge I learned that you don’t have to wave your lightsaber around like a fool in order for it to make the cool lightsaber noises. You can just tap it gently on the handle where the motion sensor is. Mike Kan demonstrates.

Mike Kan with the meeting lightsaber

Mike explained to several people, during his signature “Telephone” tour of the space, that computer programming is difficult, a bit as if you were trying to teach someone how to make complicated origami over the telephone. It took me a minute to get this, but then I realized that in his parable the computer is making the beautiful origami for us and we are like these crazy monkeys screaming at the computer over a primitive communication medium.

Meanwhile! Ben did a bunch of work today testing some of our overhead lights as we prepare to try and figure out how to be more energy efficient, helped for a while by me and Evan, who mostly just handed him things while he was up on the ladder.

ben testing some lights

ben testing the lights at noisebridge

I showed Evan a trick that Mike Kan taught me a while back. If you stick a screwdriver or a thin piece of metal into a used cable tie, you can unstick the little tab from the ridges and undo the cable tie to be reused. We un-did some cable ties and gave them to Ben so he could secure the light fixtures to each other. You can learn a lot of useful and interesting things talking with Mike.

Later, while Ed was making pizza, Evan and I had the following conversation.

Me: Hey, Top of the Head Ponytail Guy. What’s your name?
Top of the Head Ponytail Guy: I’m Evan.
Me: Hi Evan. I’m Liz.
Evan: I’m a unicorn!!!!!

Categories: General

Making Daleks and buttonholes

Tonight at Noisebridge there were a lot of different little projects and meetings happening all over the space. I wandered around and took some bad snapshots of them for your blogulating pleasure.

We got new soldering irons! Miloh arrayed them on a shelf near the entrance and they look very splendid. My guess is that they’re meant for Circuit Hacking Monday and other classes, as well as for general use. Someone left a bag of awesome donations including some xbee kits, some z-wave power switches, and some Raven thingamajigs. There was also a very fancy Weller soldering iron with a digital temperature controller. Do not steal it and try to sell it on the street somewhere in the city, because someone will see you.

a bunch of shiny new soldering irons

These guys were making some sort of Arduino-controlled flamethrower with a giant battery.

noisebridge dudes looking happy with their project

Here are their schematics. The giant, scary-looking battery is sadly hidden behind the lamp. Nothing was on fire yet when I left the space around 8pm.

battery thing with arduino and schematic

The sewing shop was full of people who I have never met who were going through the scrap bins and making stuff. I denied that my name was Rachel, and found out that they were learning to make button holes and then as I explained they were making buttonholes to everyone else, a plan was hatched to make the 3-D printers print some buttholes. BUTTONholes. BUTTONholes people. We don’t make buttholes at Noisebridge. Though perhaps you could say that buttholes make Noisebridge.

sewing area with smiley people doing things

There was a Replicator Wednesday meeting tonight from 5 to 9pm. I met Andrew who claims to be the Fastest MakerBot Assembler in the west — and Willie who came in to talk about the Thing-o-Matic he has at home. As I left a bunch of other people were Replicating very busily. Andrew gave me a glow in the dark Dalek bottle opener! He plans to ask for donations for them, perhaps to buy more spools of printer plastic.

noisebridge guy with 3d printers and daleks

Bonus link to a time-lapse video of people assembling a Makerbot. I am sure Andrew is faster.

Robert was working on his motorized bicycle. Also notably he was skateboarding around the space tonight along with Dan the Guy who Always Wears Rollerskates. His motor looks like it’s coming along nicely.

closeup of bike motor with wires sticking out

My new interest is in messing with MC Hawking, the Noisebridge powerchair robot, a joint project by Lilia and Jake and whoever else helps build it. You can ssh into MC Hawking and control his motors and cameras and Kinect and missiles with a library of Python scripts written by Lilia. The latest improvement to MC Hawking is a board screwed to the wall with a power outlet — so that in theory you could drive the robot remotely right up to plug itself in for a recharge.

the powerchair robot

Other stuff going on but not photographed: Caves full of people doing something linuxy. Re-working of the Network Rack and installation of minotaur, a new server. (If you like messing with network infrastructure you should read (and update) the Network resources page on the wiki, and join the Rack mailing list.) Coding with headphones on. Grumbling that the soda vending machine uses 3.5 kilowatt hours per day even after its lightbulbs were removed; more than a fridge and not really enough to justify having it to raise money. Soldering of things. More soldering. Kitchen cleaning by Wish the lady who is running for Mayor of San Francisco. Oh and earlier in the evening as part of the glory that is Tastebridge, Francisco made empanadas, and taught people how to do it, but sadly I have no photos and did not get to eat any delicious looking empanadas.

On the way out a horde of Bitcoin meetup people were just coming in and I disconcerted them by realizing they were The Bitcoin People and screaming “BITCOIN!!!” at the top of my lungs.

I found a tiny geocache just sitting on the table! Also, I picked the lock on the donation box, took the money in there, counted it, pocketed it, transferred the amount to the Noisebridge account and emailed the treasurer. Thank you for donating, generous visitors! In fact if you enjoyed reading about Noisebridge and just wish you could be there you could donate to Noisebridge right now!

tiny geocache at Noisebridge

Categories: General