Monday, 7 November 2011

Hacking’s our business.

And business is good. The grand opening went better than anyone could have expected! After all was said and done, we took in over 800 dollars in profit! There was record attendance, and the (now finished) space was full of makers, hackers, geeks and self-professed nerds.

There were a whole bunch of projects on display ranging from arduino based thermometers, Lego NXT kits, steampunk nerf guns to hacked up television sets. As with other gatherings, we had a lockpicking island set up, complete with a visual guide to lockpicking for those willing to learn.
NXT kit and o-scope
Nuka Cola

For those willing and brave enough, there was the option of riding a homebuilt hovercraft! Though it doesn’t have a built-in mode of propulsion, we managed to come up with a way to move it by pulling the rider along using the extension cord. If you haven’t signed the waiver yet, make sure you do before taking a ride!

Molly and her hovercraft

Possibly because of the energy and excitement (and possibly because of the industrial-sized vat of coffee), conversations and project ideas were exchanged freely. I know that I picked up a whole bunch of new ideas, and as usual got to tap into the almost limitless knowledge found at SkullSpace. I can finish up a whole bunch of stuff I’ve been working on…and start on new projects I really don’t have the time and money for. But that seemed to be the general consensus in the space.

I managed to see Legary’s talk about vintage arcade machines and their security systems, and I have to admit it was riveting the whole way through. I didn’t think it was possible to learn that much about arcade machines in such a short span of time.

Speaking of arcade machines, both pinball machines were working, and as usual there was hardly a moment they weren’t being used. There’s nothing like hitting a big steel ball against electromechanical obstacles while the face of William Shatner stares back at you:

Someone brought down an NES, and we played a bunch of classic games including Tetris and everyone’s favourite platformer – Spiritual Warfare. For those select few of you unfamiliar with the title, it’s a Christian adventure game where you find various pieces of God’s armour, use doves as currency and bring holy justice upon unsuspecting minorities.

I’m not sure how the game ends, exactly, but I can only assume it’s the rapture. After the meeting we all went down to the King’s head and redeemed our entry tickets for a free beer! It was icing on the cake. Not only did we get to hang out at a renovated and bustling SkullSpace, but we got a free fine brew out of the deal. DJ symbiotix provided the freshest, fastest beats while we continued our conversations. There was a lot to talk about - a whole lot of ideas to share and angles to gain on new projects.

If we can get this kind of turnout at the next hackathon, who knows what we’ll be able to get done!
Nerf guns and Tron bags!
hacked CRT

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

It's about to get real

So the grand opening is coming up quick, and we’re getting ready in a big way. For those of you that missed this weekend’s activities, we were (once again) giving the space a facelift. Our dedicated hackers put in a full weekend worth of work, with some of them (the dedicatedest?) staying a full 21 hours. We’re now well on our way to having an almost full-sized kitchen, an almost perfectly rectangular classroom, and insulation against the almost hole-free brick walls. Sometimes it just pays to put in sweatshop hours.

The reno day started off with a small army of people converging on an amazing vegan-friendly breakfast, including some incredible buckwheat and coconut waffles. Be sorry you missed it. No, really. Shortly afterwards we managed to take down the three defunct heaters that were crowding the lounge area and create a human assembly line for hauling lumber. The heater thing sounds easy, but considering we didn’t have the luxury of using a lift it was a marvel of low-tech engineering. We had to get Egyptian in order to remove the steel behemoths, so we rigged up a clever system of ropes, ramps, carts and sheer manpower.

Afterwards we took down the wall separating the kitchen from the classroom, with the intention of moving it back a few feet so that it sits against the large concrete support beam. This setup lets use the space much more efficiently and just makes more sense in general.

Once that wall was down it was time to pull all the nails out of the lumber, salvage what we could and put the pieces back together. We used most of the scraps to build a wall that will insulate the classroom from the harsh weather ahead.

When I left it was already getting dark out, but it was impressive to look at how much we’d accomplished over the course of just a few hours. It was a learning experience for almost everyone involved. Most everyone had used a tool they weren’t familiar with beforehand (Ron made friends with the sawzall), and those who weren’t familiar with building things on this scale got to see how it was done.

As with other hackerspace get-togethers, there was the usual smattering of tech-talk ranging from microprocessors to hacking, coding and even the use of epoxies. Some tinkering got done on various projects in between the reno work, and to top it all off the space was nice enough to get pizza for everyone who pitched in!
See you all at the grand opening, I know I’m gonna be looking forward to seeing how that work turned out!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

We're still alive!

Hey everybody,

Just letting you know that even though this blog hasn't seen love in awhile, we're turning over the keys to a couple new folks who promise to take good care of it. Hopefully in the next few months we'll see some activity here! If not, we're going to take the blog out back and, well, you know.

Anyway, if it's Christmas 2011 or later, and this is still the newest post, never fear! The group is still alive and we've just forgotten about the blog once again. Head over to (or check out our mailing list/Twitter/Facebook/Flickr/Vimeo/etc) and find out what we're up to!


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Back at the Lo

As you've probably figured out by the title, this week’s meeting was at the Lo pub. As usual it was good times, and we had a few new members show up! I'm still surprised seeing so many tech savvy people in Winnipeg, it’s one of those things you almost wouldn’t expect. We only had a few things to go over because we went over the details of finding a space in last week’s meeting.

For those of you who haven’t read the discussion emails, Jay is spearheading the RSSF, and has found two possible locations. The first is on 111 Lombard, and we’d be able to rent it on a monthly basis. There is of course a catch. There are planned renovations for the space, and at any given moment we could be kicked out. Though a little risky, the price is right, and for a trial space it may just fit the bill. Jay mentioned some issues with cleanliness, but I think a weekend spent with brooms, mops and buckets could go a long way.

The second space is at 250 McDermot and is an open area of 750sq ft. The price is $875, it requires a yearly contract, and is supposed to be in much better shape. If utilities are included in this price the space would be a prime candidate. The RSSF will investigate tomorrow and update us via email. If anyone wants to help Jay with calling agents, it’d be greatly appreciated. It doesn’t take long, and Jay will hook you up with all the info! Send an email to the discuss list!

That’s about all we have for spaces right now, if we can get more people calling and talking to agents our options will likely expand. There are a lot of spaces, but apparently none of the agents responsible for them answer the phone.

In other news, we’re planning ahead for our April hackathon, which will probably be on Saturday the 16th. Ron’s going to send out a survey asking about what you liked/disliked about the previous event and how we could improve. We’ve already learned a lot from our last hackathon, and this one is shaping up to be even better. We’re going to get more tables and chairs to create more of a workspace type feel, better separate the music and talk areas, and try to set up workshops where attendees can tinker and code socially. Also, we’re working on fixing the network issues.

We’re probably going to be focusing on embedded systems this time around, with talks potentially covering the Launchpad platform and more about the Arduino. We’d like to set up an arduino workshop and give a talk covering some aspect, then allow people to try it out on their own. The topic will probably be serial communication, as that’s not only easy to implement on the Arduino, it’s also applicable to other embedded platforms. I’ll be sending out an email!


If you haven’t gotten an arduino yet, here are some websites where you can score one! We highly suggest you get one and bring it to the hackathon.
Best bang for your buck is probably the budget pack

If you have a bit of extra cash to blow, the experimenter pack will get you set up with everything you need to learn about micros. I really wish this was around when I got my arduino

At the talk I mentioned a shortcoming of the platform was the lack of ports. They fixed the fuck out of that problem with the Arduino Mega

Check out the rest of Adafruit’s arduino stuff here.

If for some reason you’re not down for ordering from Adafruit, Makezine carries them.

So does Sparkfun

And Evil Mad Scientist sells a totally badass variant, the Diavolino

They stock all sorts of really cool stuff too, usually more one-off and hard to find than sparkfun.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Rent Space Strike Force Established!

At the meeting this week we went over the possibilities of the space, yet again. The lovely Bannatyne location is out of the question for now, as there were minor refinishing and electrical issues. The space will be under renovation for the next six months, and there will be no access until the repairs are complete.
As a result, we spent the meeting going over the details of the other candidate space, located off of Erin. It was reasonably close to downtown, being 3.8km from Portage and Main. The space still provides reasonable bus access, and has plenty of parking options. The building is two stories with multiple office areas, and more importantly has a large warehouse area.

The warehouse area would allow skullspace to share a building with protolab, the sister space that will cover more hands-on, industrial type activities. The Erin location allows both spaces to operate in a single building, and gives the groups the ability to stay together as a community. Though it would be awesome to be able to do woodworking, metalwork, electronics and coding all in the same building, the cost is prohibitive at the moment.
With the current membership number hovering around 30, we were worried that the cost of investing would be too high and the fees may prevent new people from joining. Fortunately, there is no huge rush as protolab isn’t supposed to take off until September. This gives a few months time, and we thought the best idea would be to rent a space downtown.
We established a Rent Space Strike Force (RSSF), the members of which will scour the downtown area looking for properties to rent on a month-to-month basis. This would allow us to keep membership fees reasonable and have a space downtown at the same time. There are issues that come up with the renting idea. Access to the space on a 24/7 basis for all members could be an issue, and any sort of larger building modification would be almost entirely out of the question.

However, we feel the benefits of renting outweigh the (possible) costs. If we were to establish a space downtown, even for a few months, we may be able to interest more people. There would be a physical place to visit and drop by to learn more about the space and participate in projects, as well as a single location for meetings and hackathons. Renting on a monthly basis would also allow us to do what amounts to a trial run of the space, to see if we can keep enough people interested and raise enough money to move into a permanent location.

Your thoughts on this matter are welcome, feel free to leave comments here or send off an email to the discussion list at

Monday, 21 March 2011

Hackathon 4 was a huge success!

Massive props to the record number of people who showed up! We hacked, picked locks, played with microcontrollers and met a whole bunch of really cool people. Oh, and we learned stuff. Apart from the formal talks, everyone there seemed to have information to share on one subject or another. Personally, I walked out of the meeting knowing more about coding, microcontrollers, digital security and copyright protection, and I’m sure the feeling extends to most everyone in attendance.

dropping beats

As you’ll note in the pictures, the event took place at the Nutty Club, home of Les was kind enough to let us use his awesome ISP room to host our event. Not only did the place look really cool, it was located in the heart of downtown! Watching trains go by from the windows was pretty sweet too.

Les has all sorts of cool RC stuff, but I couldn't find any pictures. Just imagine the stool is Quadracopter or an awesome RC car:
rc stool

The Goldeneye tourney was some retro fun, though the game doesn’t seem to have aged all that well. The pixels were the size of our heads! It seems the single-joystick control also took some getting used to, and to think that we used to be impressed… But I digress.
Ron pwning n00bs:
n64 ron

Mark’s combination talk and challenge was really interesting. He discussed vulnerabilities in Plone web software. It was my first time watching hackers do their thing in real life, and though I didn't quite get what was going on I'm sure I absorbed some of the information by osmosis. Mark led us through the issues in Plone, and offered a prize for whoever could exploit it over the course of his talk. Stef ended up winning the challenge and took home an energy drink! Here's a skullspace simulation of the talk, reconstructed from photographs:

I covered some basics in Arduino, for anyone interested I have the powerpoint, so just send an email to the discuss list. I learned there's a few other people involved with skullspace that are into microcontrollers, which was really cool. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say about the Launchpad, as it's a system that I'm not at all familiar with but it looked really cool! I know I talked to two people, but since I'm terrible with names I've already know who you are though. If you guys would like to give a talk about micros or the launchpad at the next hackathon that'd be wicked!

Here's me, not talking about the arduino:
arduino talk

The talk I enjoyed most was FuckYeahNouns, skullspace’s most profitable project to date. Burke led us through the process of creating the site, as well as some awesome statistics from the moments the website was posted to Reddit. As a result of the talk, I have a little more respect for Yahoo, and know a little bit more about web hosting, (as well as what happens to your server when content goes viral).


I also ended up talking to the people behind the Winnitron, the indie game machine, and as it turns out they are working on an exciting new project! I’m not at liberty to disclose the details, but it’s shaping up to be an impressive sequel to the popular cabinet. If you liked the Winnitron, you’ll love what they have planned next.

As usual, our next meeting will be on Tuesday at Seccuris, 321 McDermot Avenue. Updates on the space and voting on the wishlist will take place. Oh, and after seeing the raging success that was FuckYeahNouns, skullspace has decided to branch out into meme production, with the goal of 1 meme per month. If successful, we may sustain our business model through the propagation of viral internet content. Feel free to help us either with hosting space, idea donation, coding expertise and whatever else you think could spread like wildfire through the internet.

And some more pics from the meet:

The rest of the pictures can be found here

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mailing List MADNESS

Alright, first off: SIGN UP FOR THE MAILING LIST. It’s crucial. The mailing list is where we, well, mail lists. And discuss stuff. If you want to know what’s going on with the space, what are current needs/wants/hopes and dreams are, and if you want to weigh in on these, the mailing list is the place to do it!

We’re trying to make meetings a time to vote on things, and to discuss the finer points of the subjects in the mailing list. If we want a group that works on consensus, we all have a responsibility to stay informed. Next Tuesday we’ll be voting on the wishlist. It’s available on the wiki, and it’s been listed in the blog. We can probably email you a copy too.

Yesterday’s meeting was pretty good, and we had an extensive discussion concerning the potential spaces. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, we held it at the current candidate for the physical space. It’s between Republic and the Peasant Cookery, and it’s a space that’s affordable and suitable to our needs. Plus, the entrance is a totally cool nondescript door.

It’s not ideal, and it needs some work, but the location and price are hard to argue with. The fact that the space is set up to accommodate industrial equipment is a huge plus, seeing as skullspace and the sister organization, protospace, want to share the same buildings. Other potential locations include one in the Inkster industrial park and a space off of Erin. These, though bigger (and at least one has 3 phase power!) are harder to get to and would almost certainly necessitate a personal vehicle (ie: bus-riders stay home!)

There was some confusion during the meeting regarding the space, growth possibilities as well as the finer points in any potential lease. The concern is good, though being subscribed and up to speed with the mailing list discussions will alleviate this kind of confusion in the future. However, the concern shows that we have a dedicated group of people willing to put time and effort into the project.

Which is why we’re looking forward to this Saturday. As you probably know we’re hosting a Hackathon. We’re going to be featuring talks by members covering a number of subjects and we’ll have a bunch of other awesome activities. We’re hoping that after this weekend we’ll have some projects in the works and some collaborations going between group members.

Personally, my goal is to get people involved with the Arduino, and start building things as soon as possible. I’d love to hear the ideas you guys have and the (arduino-based) things you’d like to build! Feel free to drop your suggestions off at the discuss list:

Anyway, it's the middle of the week, so this seems appropriate: Plastic snakes and fractal geometry.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Status update!


Alright, first off we should probably start with the business end of things. We’ve got a draft budget, as you probably know from the mailing list. Please note that this is an alpha draft that will likely change as we know numbers a little better. Our basic monthly operating budget will look something like this, though:


And our annual expenses will look something like this:

Annual Return (Companies Office)$25.00

And finally, our predicted income is the following:

Monthly Dues$14,400.00

That assumes a $40/month fee for members and 30 members. The grand total, if you add it all up, is ~$725 above per year. Our goal was to be slightly over the break-even point, so we are successful.

To emphasize one more time: this is only a draft budget. It may not reflect the ultimate reality.

Oh, and to help out with the "Merch" income, everybody should go buy something nice for themselves from our Cafepress Store!


Bylaws were voted in at the last meeting, and we'll be posting them as soon as they're "lawyered up".

We are currently enlisting people for the physical space design task force. We need the following items in the space, when we get it:
  • warm up food
    • Microwave
  • keep food cold
    • Fridge
  • make coffee
    • Coffee Maker and supplies
  • work at tables on laptops with wired internet
    • 4 tables and 16 chairs
    • network switch and a roll of cable+ends+crimper
  • work at couches on laptops with wireless internet
    • 2 couches
    • wifi ap
  • throw out garbage and recycling
    • garbage can
    • recycling bin
  • present talks
    • projector, screen
    • area we can re-arrange to make suitable for presentation/talk
  • listen to music
    • speakers
    • media centre/stereo/etc
  • side table to put your coffee cup on while hacking
    • 2 side tables
  • soldering station
    • workbench
    • soldering irons
  • access control
    • card access system
  • alarm
    • alarm system
  • safety stuff
    • fire extinguishers (2x abc dry chem, also should probably have a class D)
    • epic first aid kit
The budget, gear, and more are being actively discussed on the discussion mailing list - if you want more information (or if you have any questions/concerns/etc), please join the list!. Email and follow the instructions to subscribe! Go here for more information about our mailing lists, and here to read the archives.


We’re hosting an even on Saturday, March 19th, and anyone who wants to talk about their pet obsession is welcome to do so. Personally, I’ll be talking about the arduino, a platform which you all know I like a little too much. I’ve heard talk of sessions covering GIS mapping, as well as a previously undisclosed exploit for a vulnerability in Plone. This time, we'll be meeting at the Nutty Club Building (homeplace of at 130 Portage Avenue East (the big red door with the doorbell). Come on down and spend a Saturday learning with us! Bring your friends! For more details and directions, see our wiki post (we'll be updating it this weekend with full details)

And if you needed one more reason to come, we'll have free stickers to give away!

Inner-city youths

If anyone wants to help out some inner city youths, there’s a computer club looking for volunteers. Not only will you be able to teach kids some computer basics, you’ll be making a positive difference in the world! Anyone interested should email for the contact info!

That's about all for now. We'll be covering a bunch of details and physical space stuff at the meeting on Tuesday at 6pm, in a brand new location - our potential space on Bannatyne Ave (the small door between The Republic and the Peasant Cookery)!

SkullSpace the t-shirt! SkullSpace the coffee mug!

During our budget committeetask force meeting last night we came up with some fund raising ideas. One of those was to offer merchandise with the SkullSpace logo/brand. We settled on cafepress to make things simple and thus SkullSpace merch was born.

Since the primary function of this is to raise funds for SkullSpace, we decided to markup all items by $5. What this means is that for every item anyone orders from the SkullSpace cafepress storefronts, SkullSpace makes $5. Not too shabby.

We are offering two different sets of items. One has what we refer to as the SkullSpace Slogan on it, which includes the "knowledge community technology" bit. You can order items with that branding here:

The other set of items is just the round cute skull logo. You can order items with that branding here:

We only added some basic items we thought members might enjoy. If there is anything in the full list of products cafepress offers that you would like with the SkullSpace branding on it, let us know by commenting on this post and we can add it to the store.