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!