Wednesday 23 February 2011


We had a sizable turnout at yesterdays meeting, and we are proud to announce we have 17 official members! We expect more members to filter in gradually, especially as a result of this weekend's Code Camp.

Our goal is to overflow the room we were given - it seats 30, so we think it shouldn't be a problem. The talks run all Saturday at Red River's Princess St. Campus, first one is at 8:30 so come early! Free food, pubs all around and we'll have freebies to give away!

For anyone who missed the meeting last night, we started setting the foundations of how the group will operate. We realized that our initial membership costs were way to high - especially since we did not have a physical space or much to show in the way of a group.

We had a solid question and answer session in which we drafted the decision-making process of the group. We're aiming for consensus based decision making where the group will be unanimously for or against proposals, but since that may be unachievable we plan to have majority rule bylaws in place. By paying your membership dues, you get the right to vote in group decision.

A major point we went over was the method of voting. We'd prefer to have voting done in person, and for any major decisions we will be issuing a few weeks notice so anyone unable to attend will still be able to vote. We've decided that the bylaws and rules will be drafted as a group and we will vote on them, the timeline for this is still tentative but we are aiming to have this done in the next couple of weeks.

We're going to continue holding weekly meetings and monthly hackathons. Though we may not be participating directly in global hacker challenges every time, our meetings will coincide with hackathon timelines so we'll be on the same page as other hackerspaces.

We didn't go over many potential project details, but there was talk of a sister space - a "prototyping space". This hacker/maker space would be more geared towards hands-on making, and will hopefully include woodworking, electronic and metalworking tools! Come to the next meeting if you want to hear more about it!

We urge you to read the mailing lists, as they are full of information about group decisions and progress! Feel free to use the discuss list to get your voice heard!

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Bylaws and Timelines

The meeting tonight won’t be going over too much, but everyone’s invited to come down, have some food and brews and hang out! We’re busily working behind the scenes, things seem to be falling into place…or getting jammed there with a little bit of help.

There’s been a lot of talk about how we’re going to run the space, as we are a corporation and though it may be boring we do need to take into account a host of legal issues. We’re currently setting up corporation bylaws, or at least talking about setting them up. We’ve taken some advice from and protospace, and we’re learning how they’ve successfully run their spaces.

Basically, the bylaws will codeify what we’ve already been going over at meetings. The conversations seem to raise three separate aspects that bylaws would cover: direction/management, accounting and member policies.

On the directing side of things, we’re thoroughly beating the “no one who works for us will get paid” dead horse. A lot of the talk concerns financial liability issues, as in, if we tank whose ass is responsible. Though we don’t expect to tank, and won’t accept anything short of raging success, it’s something that has to be thought about. We’ve got Ron, Mak and Andrew doing all sorts of corporate-bureaucratic wizardry to make the corporation a feasible entity as well as insuring that should we go under, it’ll be as painless as possible.
The one thing we have decided on concretely is that all voting will be done in-person. No automated or online voting systems will be set up, not only because of technical complications but also because of the person-to-person community we hope to build.

Member policies are pretty straightforward, and we’re not expecting a lot of problems there. However, we do want to implement either policies or bylaws that would protect all members from any sort of harassment and make the space a ‘safe place’ for everyone. No discriminatory remarks, actions, etc will be tolerated. We are also attempting to set up bylaws that will allow us to eject any members who violate the harassment (or other important safety policy) without any repercussions from the group. In short, we won’t tolerate destructive attitudes and behavior.

Accounting is probably the most intricate issue, as setting up a non-profit corporation needs some finesse and forethought. Our goal is to raise $2k in funds before March 29th, and we’ve got a number of ideas to help us do so. We’ll need to collect member fees from 45 members by the end of March, and we’re going to run a fundraising event by March 19th. So far, our ideas include a possible “anti-social social”, a LAN party, or a bake sale. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!

This is the current timeline for achieving our goals:

  1. Establish By-Laws& Vote on 5 interim Board Members (If by-law examples are used) - By Feb 26

  2. Fund raising event (Anti-social $ocial) - By March 19 Based on outcome from fund raising / membership drive to date;could sign Draft Letter of Intent (LOI) for space, which Mike needs
    to create a sub-lease to SkullSpace by March 19

  3. Deadline for 45 Members pre-paid for three months&& $2000.00 in donations - By March 29

  4. Sign Draft LOI / Lease for space - By April 5th

  5. Finalize Lease / Insurance - By April 12th

  6. Initial Clean / Move into space - By April 26th

  7. Open House - April 30th?

Sunday 13 February 2011

Tales from the hackathon

I'm writing this blog at the LO Pub (the *official* hackathon after party) while waiting for The Greg Rekus Experience to go on stage. The hackathon was a huge success. Over the entire day we had over 20 people (we weren't keeping count) stop by.

We had a couple people working on setting up a file server, they even left the hackathon for a short time to take a trip down to memory express and grab a new motherboard. We had a small lock pick village set up which nearly everyone played with at some point during the day. We had a couple people working on micro controller projects. We had lots of people on laptops doing who knows what. We also had a ton of good discussing going on about some of the business plan type aspects of what we want SkullSpace to be.

We had a couple people working on BreachDB that apparently got a lot of work done. BreachDB is a project that involves password hashing research among other things. More will be announced when it's closer to being done.

For a while we were streaming a local UK Hardcore DJ duo, Mnemosyne, on the projector. They do a set every Saturday and happen to be involved with SkullSpace so it made for some nice background noise and visuals.

At one point Mark asked if anyone would be interested in learning a little bit about ZODB, an object-oriented database (as opposed to relational) and nearly everyone said sure so he took the stage and did a 10 minute lightning talk on the subject.

We even had a visit from the first person to run for the Pirate Party of Canada - Jeff Coleman. He has some really cool 3d printed metal objects to show us. He designed them in google sketchup and had them printed through a local 3d printing company. Really cool stuff.

Our biggest measure of success was the amount of donations we received. An anonymous donor generously offered to match all the donations we got throughout the day. By the end of the day we had amassed $500.69 in donations, and with the anonymous donor matching that (well, $500.70) we ended up with $1001.29 total for the day, which is pretty awesome. This brings our total bank account balance up to around $1200 (assuming all cheques clear :P). On a special note, we also received our first online donation today. Using the "Donate" button on this very blog (on the top right - try it ;), at one point Jason donated $30.69, bringing our total thus far up to $420.69. He made me promise to mention this somewhere :) Our other donors included Paul, Anonymous, Dan, Nathan, Anonymous, Stef and Anonymous again. Big thanks to all donors!

I'll take this time to note that paypal takes a silly amount of fees - $1.19 total for that $30.69 donation. We really would like to give people the option of donating and also eventually paying membership fees online, but the fees kind of suck. Google checkout isn't available for sellers/merchants in Canada, same story with Amazon Checkout. If anyone has any other online payment methods that are available to Canadian recipients, please let us know, we would love to offer whatever methods we can.

All in all it was a great day - we got to talk to lots of great people about the projects they were working on and hashed out some of the business details of SkullSpace. I had a blast and am looking forward to the next "skullspace" event (not *really* a skullspace event!) Winnipeg Code Camp on the 26th. Everyone show up! We will have our own track/room for the day, and we may even have stickers to give away! Ron will be doing a hilarious talk on stupid code mistakes, Mak will be doing an informative talk on Nmap scripting, Stef will be doing a tantalizing talk on jQuery, and I'll be doing a delicious talk on hackerspaces! We will also be doing book giveaways at the end of each of our talks, so you won't want to miss it!

I'm almost done my Half Pints CKUbreW so I'll have to quit typing soon and go get another.

Cheers Winnipeg!

Thursday 10 February 2011

555 timers!

In light of the upcoming 555 timer contest, details of which can be found here, we've compiled a little link farm of relevant information!

The contest is supposed to be for original circuits and applications, but seeing as most skullspace members have little experience with the timer, we thought this would be a great time to introduce the little chip.

The timer was introduced in the 70's, and has been a mainstay in electronics projects ever since. The flexible little IC can do anything from controlling lights and motors to acting as a lo-fi synth (or guitar pedal!)

Operational details and basic schematics can be found here.

The timer went through a bit of a rebirth with the introduction of the Atari Punk Console, a re-branding of a classic circuit by Forrest M. Mims.


Guitar Pedal Mod

Noisemusick kit

Auto-fire mouse hack

555 synth

If anyone is keen to the workings of the timer, or has experience with the flexible little circuit, please feel free to enlighten us in the comments!

The contest ends March 1st, for those of you savvy enough to develop an original circuit!

Wednesday 9 February 2011

the "Everything is OK Alarm"

Because we've been really productive, there's a whole bunch of short updates this time 'round.

First up, we've made more headway into getting the space up and running. We've drafted a budget, and we're quickly assembling a business plan. We need to raise $5k before we can open the space, to cover our collective asses if things go south and pay for a 1 year lease. Membership fees are going to be collected very soon, but that's okay since we're already doing all sorts of awesome stuff.

This weekend, Saturday February 12th is the synchronous hackathon and it will take place at the Red River College Princess Street campus. It's happening in room P319 from noon till 8pm (come by any time during that, there'll be people to greet you all day). There are a ton of ethernet jacks in those classrooms, but no anonymous wifi, so bring your cables! We are working on a variety of projects, and it'll hopefully be a good chance to meet new people and find out what we're all about. The following weekend, spaces across the globe will be making 555 timer projects. It's a neat little device with a ton of applications! It'll do everything from motor control to simple sound generation. Although we won't be hosting a hack-a-thon that weekend, a few people are talking about working on 555 projects early. Expect some updates, schematics and ideas as we get closer to the weekend!

Those of you who haven't already been to the flickr and voted on a logo, you should probably head over there right now . We've got a new set of logos up, and they are all sorts of awesome!

The meeting tonight went over a few new details and expanded on some old business. We're trying to get involved with an awesome 'zine called hack this zine. They're open to the idea of running a story about our group, and we're currently discussing the details. Anyone who hasn't read that 'zine should download the latest copy and have a good sit down. They have well written, informative and interesting articles, focusing on hacker culture and technology in a global context. Very well put together and down to earth. Highly recommended.

With that aside, the largest issue is group coalescence, and it's the key to moving forward with the space. To get further as an organization, we need to act as a cohesive group with goals, projects and of course - a strong sense of community. In order to implement the business plan, gather fees and raise money, we need to function as a group.

It's a recurring theme in overcoming the remaining obstacles. The issues concerning theft were talked over with other spaces, and they basically said it boils down to trust. Members of a group that know one another and are involved with each others projects won't steal. Building trust and a sense of community will take time, but it is what will guarantee the success of the group.

That's about it for this update, I hope you all had a fantastic time at the Lo Pub last night!

Monday 7 February 2011

Seeing into the near-future

We're at an exciting time in the development of SkullSpace, we've got members, ideas, goals and a corporate entity. What comes next is a little tricky. We've got to get the physical space, establish a list of members and set up a way to pay membership fees. Simultaneously we need to draft and implement business plan so we know what to do with the money.

Thankfully, our fearless leaders are working overtime trying to get everything together. The largest concern at the moment is creating a startup fund of around 5k to cover the costs associated with opening SkullSpace. The money would be put towards getting gear and act as a buffer if things didn't go as planned. So far, the proposed monthly membership fee is $40 - $50, and with at least 50 members it would be enough to cover renting the space, insurance and utilities. If we can get more members, it'll be all that much easier to get tools and start more intricate projects.

Decentralized decision-making has come up multiple times during the course of meetings and discussions. SkullSpace wants to stress that it is an egalitarian entity, and all members are welcome (even encouraged) to take an active role in any decisions to be made.

In other words, by paying your monthly dues, you become a full-fledged member of a group of anarchohackers, none of this board of directors and club presidents nonsense that seems to flood other aspects of lame everyday life.

Our current business outline is a little like this:
1. Start building unofficial group
2(a)Get space
2(b)Start collecting membership fees
3. Prioritize projects - renovation, tools, equipment, gear, etc
4. Sort out how we can make those projects happen

It's not as linear as it seems, and we have to execute both parts of point 2 simultaneously. In order to get the space and do the projects, we need to start collecting fees. The problem with that is that we don't want to collect fees too aggressively before the space is open, making people feel like they've paid Skullspace for nothing in particular. However, by collecting fees early and becoming a functioning non-profit entity with active members, it will be that much easier to talk to people and businesses about collaborations and funding.

We'll go over this at the meeting this week, any and all questions will be answered! Feel free to leave feedback, suggestions and whatever else you want to say in the comments!

Thursday 3 February 2011

Skullspace Winnipeg Inc.

We are officially a non-profit organization! Andrew finalized the articles of incorporation this week, and we can start doing all sorts of awesome non-profit, community building stuff! We're still working on setting up a bank account, but if anyone wants to donate in the meantime please contact Andrew at

We're also in the middle of judging logo designs on Flickr, the link can be found here. Please note: The logo at the top of the page in now way indicates our preferences, it's just there to replace the stock photo. Vote by leaving a comment!

Wednesday 2 February 2011

SkullSpace Cupcake Unboxing

We received two shipments of cupcakes and recently had an unboxing ceremony. We were going to do this at the LO Pub but when we arrived it was very busy (Friday after work - go figure) so we took our packages into the LO Bistro instead.

The first package we opened was from BuildBrighton, a hackerspace based in Brighton, England. It came in a rather plain looking brown cardboard box (with amazon printed on the sides) and when we opened it up, we were quite surprised to find a loaf of bread inside. Along with the loaf of bread were two notes, one directed at customs and the other to SkullSpace.

The customs note read as follows:

Hello customs/border services agency people.
If you're thinking this package is suspicious, it's not. We've hollowed out a hole inside a loaf of bread and inserted a cupcake, in order to try and preserve it throughout its travels from the UK to Canada. It's part of a larger competition, the details of which can be found here:

The note to SkullSpace read as follows:

Hello Winnipeg!
Hope the cupcake has arrived in pristine condition. You'll probably be wondering how to get at it.
1) Take the loaf out of the box, then remove the circular plug in the top.
2) Cut down the sides of the loaf, being careful not to cut into the cupcake.
3) Pull the loaf in two, revealing the cupcake.
4) eat!
Cheers, BuildBrighton

We proceeded with their instructions, but opted to leave the bread in the box as it was making a mess on the table when we had it out. We managed to get the cupcake out unscathed, but noticed that the bread had started to grow a bit of delicious mold. We tasted and graded the cupcake.

Note: Each category is supposed to get a rating between 1 and 10.

A) The creativity of method used to stabilize the cupcake: 10/10
B) The stability of mixture / Quality of ingredients: 10/10
C) Appearance: 8.5/10
D) Taste: 9.5/10
E) Condition: 9/10

Total: 47/50

The process (if you can even call it that) by which we determined those numbers can be observed by watching a video of the entire unboxing process on our youtube channel.

We also got a really cool little card with the BuildBrighton name on it. It was much smaller than a business card, but on the back of it was a resistor colour code cheat sheet! Awesome!

Now on to HacDC!

The second package we opened was from HacDC. It was a large styrofoam container with a customs label on the side that declared it containing a cupcake, two icepacks and packaging material. We got excited and cracked it open. Unfortunately the icepacks were room temperature water by then, but we still thought this was a good idea. The cupcake itself was inside a plastic container and was held in place with a lattice of skewers stabbed in the sides. It appears this had failed as when the cupcake dried out it managed to pop loose of the skewers and messed up the icing on top. Here's a picture we got from HacDC of what it looked like beforehand, and you can check the video for what it looked like when we got it.

In any event, this cupcake was delicious. The icing had cinnamon hearts built in, and the cake itself was a sort of gingerbread made with real fresh grated ginger! Tasty++. Our grading follows:

Note: Each category is supposed to get a rating between 1 and 10.

1) The creativity of method used to stabilize the cupcake: 9/10
2) The stability of mixture / Quality of ingredients: 8/10
3) Appearance: 5/10
4) Taste: 11/10
5) Condition: 5/10

Total: 38/50

The process by which we determined those numbers can be observed by watching our unboxing video on our youtube channel.

They also sent multiple packets of "Swedish Fish", a tasty little fruit snack suspiciously similar to swedish berries, along with a couple of HacDC stickers! Awesome!

We had a good time participating in the Global Hackerspace Cupcake Challenge and are looking forward to the next Global Hackerspace Challenge (the details of which are going to be decided during the Global Hackerspace call-in coming up this Saturday).

A big thank-you to both BuildBrighton and HacDC, you guys and gals are awesome!


Mega-Meeting follow up

Last night at the Lo Pub we had our largest meeting ever - 16 people showed up! Lots of new faces, ideas and enthusiasm! We discussed the status of the physical space, and we are currently waiting on the wonderful City of Winnipeg to re-zone it, as it's currently zoned for restaurant purposes. Once that's in place, it's a matter of getting insurance and renovating - in other words, we're on our way to opening SkullSpace!

There was talk of partnering with small businesses to create a 'Prototype Space'. The space would feature complicated and otherwise inaccessible tools - CNC machines, laser cutters, etc. The idea is to allow community access to business-grade tools, things that a normal maker would not have access to. This talk naturally led to several ideas about binding legal agreements, especially when it comes to theft, vandalism and access to (future, potential) dangerous tools. All in all, SkullSpace policy seems to be shaping up very well, and we should be able to hit the ground running when the space opens.

Upcoming events:
HACKATHON: February 12, noon. Location pending. It will either be in vacant office space, at the University of Winnipeg, or if both options fall through, the event will be held at the ends of the earth (Mak's place).

CODE CAMP: We are pleased to announce that SkullSpace will have its own track at Winnipeg Code Camp! The event goes down February 26th, and we'll have our own room! Be sure to make it down, have a few pints, and listen to the awesome talks by fellow SkullSpace members!

There are a ton of action items to work on, and if anyone wants to help I'm sure Ron will appreciate it

All the other info from the meeting is available on our wiki.

So that's about it for Wednesday morning, and as usual I'll leave you all with a link. Anyone into locks and lockpicking should enjoy it :)

Tuesday 1 February 2011