Noisebridge Grand Re-Opening Party!

After 7 years of being open 24/7, Noisebridge closed for the month of July to do some much needed infrastructure work. That work is mostly finished, and we’re having a Kickass Grand Re-Opening party!

Noisebridge-Re-Opening Party!

Come celebrate 7 years of Noisebridge helping the world!

This party is also a Kickass Fundraising Party to benefit the Noisebridge Reboot!

There will be live music!    There will be DJs!
There will be live comedy!
There will be cool projects being demo-ed!
There will be food!    There will be drink!
There will be awesome people!
There will be you!

Please come and help us celebrate,
     and help Noisebridge help the world for 7 more years — and beyond!

All are welcome!

When: Friday, 15-August, 6pm – 10pm
Where: at Noisebridge — map
Cost: FREE! Suggested donation at the door — no one turned away for lack of funds.


## Comedians/live music 6-7p

## Totem Pulse ( dance-music band 7-8p

## DJ MyKill ( 8-9p

## Doc Pop ( 9-10p

## TBA 10-11p

## Rich DDT ( 11p-12a

Please consider dontating to our Noisebridge IndieGoGo campaign to help pay for all the infrastructure work!

and get way cool stuff, to boot!
Help Noisebridge continue to help the world!

Categories: General

Mitch Altman is no longer welcome in Canada?

Ever been kicked out of a country before? Well, it sucks.

I’m in the middle of my Hackers On A Train Workshop Tour, giving my popular Learn-to-Solder and Arduino-For-Total-Newbies workshops at 22 hackerspaces near Amtrak stations, and going to 4 conferences, over a 53 days. All by Amtrak. That was the plan, anyhow.

I was scheduled to give a talk about the hackerspace movement at the WorldFuture 2012 conference this Saturday. While there I was going to stay with my (academy award winning) friend Chris. It was going to be a really wonderful 5 days in Toronto.

To give the workshops, I’m traveling with a rucksack full of clothing and toiletries, my laptop, camera, and two huge suitcases, 50 pounds each, full of workshop stuff, including kits for teaching.

The train to Toronto from Syracuse, NY, stops at the Canadian border for customs and immigration. Everyone has to get out of the train with all their stuff. The line moves rather quickly, and when it was my turn, the Canadian Border Patrol wanted to have a look at my huge bags. After much polite discussion, there was no way that I could assure the CBP that I wasn’t going to sell the kits in Canada.

The CBP folks politely offered a suggestion that I could leave the workshop stuff in the US, and then come back to the border. When I asked where to leave the workshop suitcases, they had no info to offer. When I asked about my train to Toronto, I was told I’d have to call Amtrak. Then they gave me and a Japanese woman a free van ride to the US side of the border in Niagra Falls, NY. As we were getting in the van, one of the CBP people politely told me that in order to get into Canada, I’d need court records for my arrest when I was a young teenager.

Flashback: I’m 13 years old, hanging out with a friend in suburbia. My friend has the idea to grab his remote control for his garage door, and see if it works on any other garage doors in the neighborhood. Wouldn’t you know it — it did! In the hour that we walked around his suburban ‘hood, we came across 5 garage doors that would open. Damn. On the last one, we hid behind a bush, and opened and closed and opened and closed the garage door to see what would happen. The people who lived there came out, scratched their heads, and went back inside. As we were walking home, the police stopped us, assuming we were the people wanting to break into someone’s garage. Oddly (naively), it never even occurred to us that anyone would think we were trying to steal anything.

After meeting with a lawyer friend of my dad’s, he told me that after I did some community service, I should never tell anyone about this, since the record would be expunged.

It turns out, however, that the record was not expunged. After all these decades, it’s the CBP that (politely) told me this. They also (politely) told me that in order to get into Canada, I’ll need the court records for this case, otherwise they’ll assume that the case is still open. Since I was never given any records (from my parents or anyone), and I have no idea how to get any court records, this may mean that I may never be welcome to Canada ever again.

Scratch the WorldFuture 2012 conference in Toronto and the workshop at Vancouver Hack Space.

Categories: Hackerspaces

Hacker Trip To China #2

I got home today from a month-long trip to China that I organized <>. 10 of us traveled around, visiting all of the hackerspaces currently in China, exhibiting at the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire and giving talks and workshops and exhibiting at the big Maker Carnival China 2012 in Beijing. We also visited my manufacturer in Shanghai, where my TV-B-Gone remote controls are made.

Lots of photos:

This was my 10th trip to China. I was there with my mom in 1998, and then every year since I started making TV-B-Gone remotes there in 2004. It has been very interesting to get a snapshot impression of how China has changed through the years.

Though not very accurate, it is possible to have a sense of some very real change happening in China.

In 1998, there was capitalism visible in China, including KFCs everywhere, but it still felt like a 3rd-world version. Also, the Cultural Revolution was not all that long gone in ’98, and my sense was that people were still realing from it. Police were all over, and they had guns. And people seemed to be a bit wary of them.

On my trip in 2008, just before the Olympics, there must have been some heavy propaganda happening on Chinese media, ’cause lots and lots and lots of people I met all asked me what I thought about protestors in London and San Francisco. And before I could answer, they all said the same thing: “CNN is all lies.” I’d probably mostly agree, but probably for different reasons. There were also many inconvenient, seemingly random, restrictions imposed by the Chinese government (such as not allowing anything to be shipped with a battery installed). When asked why, most Chinese people I asked, answered with a straight face that it must be done because otherwise the Dali Lama would blow things up at airports.

By the time of the first Hacker Trip To China that I organized in 2009, things were very different. A gigantic, ugly statue of Mao was surrounded by a perimeter of stores selling everything imaginable. A huge department store had a mongo pile of a newly released American board game that they were pushing hard: Monopoly! There were still no hackerspaces in China, though. I still had the sense that officials were very official, and you didn’t want to cross them.

When I went there on my own last year, things were somehow way more open than it felt before. People I met were openly criticizing the government. There were two hackerspaces, XinCheJian in Shanghai, and FlamingoEDA in Beijing. Lots and lots of people, including those with positions in Chinese bureaucracy, were expressing the opinion that Chinese culture needs to change to encourage people to be creative and innovative — without this, they said, China would not have an economic future.
When I mentioned hackerspaces, people agreed with me that this was one means of implementing this change; and there was a lot of interest in me sharing my experiences in how to start a hackerspace. And there was also a lot of interest by people in organizing a Maker Faire for the same reason.

One year later, this year, there were not one, but two faires in China: a Mini Maker Faire in Shenzhen, and a big Maker Carnival in Beijing. And there are 7 hackerspaces in China, with talk of lots more. There may very well be 100 more soon, as the top 100 universities may be mandating that they each have one. And an elementary school in Shanghai is slated to have one soon. The hackerspaces in schools and universities are being called “Toyhouse” .

Everywhere I went, the Chinese media was interviewing me about how hackerspaces can change China in positive ways.

The Chinese government still openly censors the internet (though there are free online services that easily circumvent this).  And the bureaucracy is still huge and centralized (though so big and out of control that many actually call it “anarchy”), and people in power can, seemingly on a whim, make decisions that adversly affect projects (such as the last-minute venue change for the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire and the last minute date change at Maker Carnival — both because some bureaucrat said he needed the venue for a meeting — no apology — it’s just the way things are.

How will the changes in China play out? I don’t know. We will get to see.


Categories: Hackerspaces

Geeks & Depression meetup (in San Francisco)

Geeks & Depression meetup
Tuesday, 6-December, 7:30pm
No Starch Press, 38 Ringold Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
(near Civic Center BART Station)

Let’s have a meetup where geeks can talk about depression and suicide. You are not alone. Share your story, if you like. Share a friend’s story. Or just hang out and listen. Let’s make it OK to talk about these things so that we don’t feel so alone with our feelings of being alone and depressed or suicidal.

This is not a support group — none of us are trained professionals, but we can get together in a safe, confidential space to talk about depression and suicide — an important part of life for so many of us geeks.


If others elsewhere in the world feel like creating their own meetups, please do.




Categories: Event, General

Please reach out

For folks who don’t know, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, committed suicide recently.  He was 22 years old.

Ilya hung out at Noisebridge, and also led workshops and hackathons for Diaspora at our space.  Most people who met him were quickly taken in by his enthusiasm and do-ocratic charisma.  I became instant friends with him the first day he showed up at Noisebridge shortly after he moved to San Francisco last year.

Hardly anyone had even a clue that Ilya was depressed, let alone suicidal.  He was bubbly, cheerful, excited about all the way cool projects he was implementing, as well as the ones he had thought, and would think of.

Last night was his memorial in San Francisco, followed a party in his backyard in the Mission.  This party was typical of the epic parties Ilya threw in his backyard over the past many months, bringing together so many wonderful people — incredible opportunities to have fun meeting and connecting with each other.  The only thing atypical last night was that Ilya was not there.

Both the memorial and the party were full of people who knew and loved Ilya, and who Ilya knew and loved.  Ilya could have reached out to any one of us — any time of day or night.  He could have reached out.  But he didn’t.

For Ilya to have held in and hid his pain so well that all of these people, including myself, had no clue — Ilya must have felt *so* alone, *so* isolated, exacerbating his pain too greatly.  If he had reached out, maybe — maybe — he could have lived another day.  But he didn’t.

I lived the first half of my life in total and utter depression.  No joy, just shame, just self-loathing, dread and anxiety and fear of other people — total depression.  I know what it is like to be depressed.  I know what it is like to live for one’s whole life knowing and believing that the best life might have to offer is the ability for me to endure the pain till I eventually died.  That was the best possibility.  As with Ilya, I hid all of this from the world as best as I could.  And most people had no clue I was depressed.

Yet, I learned, through making choices for myself, and learning from the consequences of my choices, and with help and support of others, over a period of many years, making more choices, learning, growing, crashing, burning, making more choices, more support. . . — I eventually learned to live a life I love.  I love the life I live!  If I could learn to live a life I love, then, certainly, it is possible for anyone to do this!

It is more than possible — it is way worthwhile, way rewarding, way wonderful to go through the experiences of our life — through the ups and the downs, through the all-arounds, and all the pain and suffering and joy and love and excitement — and come to a place where you know that the pain, regardless of its intensity, is yet another (perhaps seemingly unendurable) experience, which gives way to more of what makes life even more worthwhile.

Depression is an important part of life.  Everyone experiences it to some extent.  But to those of us who know chronic depression, it is our own unique hell.

Unique as it is to each of us, we all share a lot.

And we all have a lot to share with each other. Through the ups, and the downs, the all-arounds.

For someone who has no experience reaching out, it can seem to be the scariest thing possible.  But it is possible.

It is very possible.  Ilya is dead.  But you — you are still alive.  If you are contemplating suicide, please know that you are not alone.  You are part of a community of others, many of whom know what it is like to be hopelessly depressed.  Many of whom are more than open for you to reach out to (if you only knew!).

You *can* choose to kill yourself.  But it will be your last choice.  If you are ready to kill yourself, why not try out one choice first?  What do you have to lose?  I know it is scary, and perhaps way shameful, and maybe too awful, and extremely difficult — but, really, what do you have to lose?  Please know that you *can* choose to reach out to someone.  Please, know that you can.  Please, pick someone and reach out.

Why wait till your pain is so unendurable?  You can reach out now.  (Really, you can.)



Categories: General

Trip to Cairo, Egypt

3-Day Hackerspace

3-Day Hackerspace at Maker Faire Africa

I’m in Cairo.  The main reason for this trip was to set up a 3-day hackerspace at Maker Faire Africa, which is in Cairo this year.  Exciting time to be here!  Lots of high hopes since the “Freedom Revolution”.  Plus lots of attempts by the still-ruling-military at divide-and-rule.

Our trip was funded by generous donations from 186 people, who collectively gave us $8,169 so that we could spread the joy and hope provided by the international hackerspace movement.  <>

The 3-day hackerspace at Maker Faire Africa was incredible!  The main idea of setting this up was to show people how incredibly cool it is to be part of a supportive community where people explore and do what they love.  And the energy was high.  I taught about 300 people to solder (on my own) at an ongoing, 3-day-long workshop, with kits and soldering irons bought with money donated through our Kickstarter campaign.  The brand new Cairo Hackerspace put together the MakerBot, donated by MakerBot Industries, and also put together the Egg-Bot, donated by Evil Mad Scientist — and they gave 3-D printing workshops.  Minal gave fabric painting workshops.  Bilal gave several Arduino workshops with Arduinos donated by a new local electronics store named Future-Electronics.  Lots of fun for all!  I gave away lots of Noisebridge keys to people who will be visiting us someday in San Francisco.  And Cairo Hackerspace now has a large number of enthusiastic people who will help contribute to Egypt’s first hackerspace.

Before Maker Faire Africa we organized two Hackerspace Meetups, to get people psyched about starting and joining hackerspaces.  The first was hosted by a co-working space in Cairo named Rasheed22.  The second was hosted by a startup incubator in Alexandria named Tahrir2 [the 2 is actually a superscript, and pronounced “squared” — a reference to the “Freedom Revolution” much of which took place in Tahrir Square in Cairo].

Mitch in Giza

Mitch in Giza

We will have two more Hackerspace meetups before we leave on the 14th.

Photos of all of the above are at my Flickr: <>



Categories: Hackerspaces

Violence in Cairo — 9-October-2011

From tweets and other postings, and stories from various news sources, I’ve been able to peace together this version of the big picture here in Egypt regarding tonight’s violence:

There is a powerful, small minority of ultra-right-wing Islamic theocrats called the Salafiyun, with ties to the supreme military council running the country. They want to rid the country of Coptic Christians (and, of course, Jews), and want to force Islamic law on Egypt.

Coptic Christians are angry at many violent and deadly attacks on them over recent days and months, and were demonstrating today in Cairo, when thugs of unknown association(s) attacked them. The Copts attacked back with weapons (perhaps ones taken from police or military).

There has been hatred exacerbated and promulgated by many religious groups: Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, Coptic Christian (with everyone hating the Jews). This is accelerating and getting worse. If this hatred and violence continues the “Freedom Revolution” is under threat of becoming a big win for the Salafiyun. (And many believe that it is being purposely spurred on by provocateurs from the previous Mubarak government and the Salfiyun.)

Let us hope that the majority of people here, who want to live in peace, and enjoy the freedom to be themselves, continue to prevail without violence (since, in my view, any apparent gains by violence will be of little long-term value).

Categories: General