SAN FRANCISCO — R. Miloh Alexander and Seth Schoen are hunched over an old pay phone whose innards are being grafted onto the guts of a Walmart telephone and a voice-over-IP modem.
Right now, the Frankensteinish hybrid looks like a pile of tangled wires. Somewhere in the mess, an alligator clip has popped loose. Schoen frowns.
“We really need to solder these down,” he says.
The two are working on a recent Monday evening at Noisebridge, a collectively operated hacker space in San Francisco. Across the table, Noisebridge member Molly Boynoff is typing on a sticker-covered MacBook, learning to program in Python. Next to her, Noisebridge co-founder Mitch Altman is showing two newcomers how to solder resistors and LEDs onto a circuit board.
“There are zillions of people around the world doing this,” says Altman, referring to the swell of interest in do-it-yourself projects and hacking. “It’s a worldwide community.”
At the center of this community are hacker spaces like Noisebridge, where like-minded geeks gather to work on personal projects, learn from each other and hang out in a nerd-friendly atmosphere. Like artist collectives in the ’60s and ’70s, hacker spaces are springing up all over.
There are now 96 known active hacker spaces worldwide, with 29 in the United States, according to Hackerspaces.org. Another 27 U.S. spaces are in the planning or building stage.
An Adafruit presentation about open source hardware, enjoy!…
The many layers of Open source hardware Deﬁnitions, licensing, challenges & debates Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone – There are a few deﬁnitions, some of which come from “open source software” which is usually considered software’s “source code under a license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that permits users to study, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modiﬁed or unmodiﬁed form.” So how does this translate to hardware? Electronic hardware can be divided up into layers, each of which could have different document types and licensing concerns…
Tweet-a-Watt kits are now available! A few months ago, using “off-the-shelf hardware”, we modified a Kill-a-Watt(TM) power meter to “tweet” (publish wirelessly) the daily KWH consumed to the user’s Twitter account (Cumulative Killowatt-hours). We released this project as an “Open source hardware” project – in other words, anyone can make these, modify them and make a commercial product from the ideas and methods.
Here’s how it works, the modified Kill-a-Watt uses a “super-cap” to slowly recharge itself, once there is enough power it turns on the Xbee wireless module which transmits the data to a nearby computer (or internet connected microcontroller, like an Arduino) once the power usage for the day is recorded it uses a predefined Twitter account (it can be your own) to publish your daily KWH consumption for the day, multiple units can be used for an entire household.
Energy change and consumption can happen many ways, we feel there is a social imperative and joy in publishing one’s own daily KWH – by sharing these numbers on a service like Twitter users can compete for the lowest numbers and also see how they’re doing compared to their friends and followers. Our system can work with twitter, google app engine or really… anything that can display data.
We also wanted to make it easy for anyone to build these so we have released a kit based on the inquires and demand – you don’t need to be a venture backed company or a giant company with millions of dollars to make your own low cost home power monitoring system.
Please note Kill-a-Watt(TM) power meters are not included, you can get these just about anywhere for less than $20.
Tweet-a-Watt is a DIY wireless power monitoring system. The project uses an ‘off the shelf’ power monitor called the Kill-a-Watt and adds wireless reporting. Each plug transmits the power usage at that outlet to a central computer receiver. The receiver can then log, graph and report the data. This pack contains nearly everything* necessary to build a single outlet monitor and receiver. To monitor additional outlets, you will need an add-on transmitter pack. One outlet can monitor up to 1500 Watts.
The starter pack contains:
2 XBee modules (one for receiver, one for transmitter)
2 XBee adapter kits (ditto)
1 USB FTDI cable (for updating, configuring and receiving data from XBee)
1 bag of parts including 10,000uF capacitor, 220uF capacitor, 2 1% 10K resistors, 2 1% 4.7K resistors, 5mm green LED, 6″ rainbow ribbon cable, and 2 pieces of 1/8″ and 1/16″ heatshrink
Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented.
Ada had been taught mathematics from a very young age by her mother and met Babbage in 1833. Ten years later she translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine – the first computer programme. The calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.
Understanding that computers could do a lot more than just crunch numbers, Ada suggested that the Analytical Engine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” She never had the chance to fully explore the possibilities of either Babbage’s inventions or her own understanding of computing. She died, aged only 36, on 27th November 1852, of cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.
Ladyada is also the name of Limor Fried, the engineer around these parts… so in celebration of Ladyada day, we are having a sale!
Happy Ada day sale!
Use code ladyada on check out and get 10% off your order… you can get 10% off the following ladyada designed kits! If you know a young woman or girl who just needs that tiny spark to inspire them for a lifetime of science and engineering, fun electronics kits from adafruit industries are a great way to go!
…for my money, I give the kit a 10. With an under $20 price point you cant go wrong. I truly feel that I am getting my money’s worth with this kit. There’s value added from the experience of building my kit and value added from continuous enjoyment of the product after the build is complete. $19.50 (+shipping) is very fair for what you get. This is my second adafruit industries kit and the quality of their kits is excellent. Consistency and quality components are why I give them a 10. I also received what I ordered and all parts were there (nothing missing- no shortages). They say quality will not necessarily sell your customers, but it will keep your customers and I intend to continue to purchase from adafuit for more of their great kits. Adafruit Industries excels in this area. With the TV-B-Gone kit there is an entire site dedicated to the kit. Forum’s, detailed build instruction’s, schematics, design files, and FAQ are all available to the public. I had no problems with my kit, but if I did, I feel confident that I would have received friendly support quickly.
Here’s a list of the VC backed open source hardware companies (that we know of) – but first some background… Each year Phil Torrone @MAKE publishes a HUGE list of the current state of open source hardware – in 2008 there were approximately 70 OSH projects, that’s twice the number of projects from 2007, check the list out, you’ll see some of the venture backed ones on the list too.
So with all the interest in open source hardware lately there’s likely going to be venture capital folks looking in – and with that being said there seems to be a handful of venture backed open source hardware companies – here are the ones we know about and who funded them.
One that’s not on the list (above) but also very interesting to watch: DigiKey – they became the “user foundry” along with TI (Texas Instruments) to make the open source BeagleBoard.
Watch this space, there will likely be more. Last week Adafruit attended an open source hardware event hosted by MIT Sloan School of Management & Eric Von Hippel, we’ll be posting our presentation from that event shortly – we have a round up of some of the biz models & more in OSH.