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Liverpool Meeting – 6th October 2009

October 19, 2009

Liverpool Hackspace meeting at the Bad Format Social Club
These fortnights seem much shorter than I ever expect. And once again the next meeting is looming and I still haven’t written up the report from the last one. So this report will serve more to confirm that we did actually meet up, and there was some hacking done and things discussed.

We had a couple of new attendees along, which is always good to see. I think we were pretty easy to find as we had the venue to ourselves, and as you can see in the photo, there was also a table full of electronics if further evidence were required.

Ross Jones and I showed off the Auduino and IR guitar, respectively, that we’d built at/for Interface Amnesty, and Scott, who runs the bar, showed us the blank area of wall on the way into the venue that he wants to populate with spinning fans and other techno-junk. And that led to a variety of ideas and discussions about how you’d connect them up to spin based on how many people were inside, or using something like the spoke-POV to make things more colourful, and wondering if we should have a hackday down in the club sometime to get something up and running.


Interface Amnesty at Static

September 27, 2009

Yesterday a few of us from the Liverpool Hackspace group went down to Static for a day of playing around with electronics to make music noises. It was an event called Interface Amnesty, organised by Sound Network as a fringe event for the Abandon Normal Devices Festival. Is that enough links?

The day was split into two parts. First off was a Maker Faire-style show-and-tell where people were demonstrating what they’d made, and then in the evening the space was cleared of trestle tables and a few of the artists present gave performances of their work.

The Hackday

Most of the rest of the people with stalls at the event were just showing off what they’d already made. We were embracing the hackspace mentality, and were building stuff as well as showing things that were finished.

It took us about three-quarters of an hour to get an Auduino up and running, which was pretty good given that it was my mate Andrew doing the building, and he hadn’t even touched an Arduino before yesterday morning. So that build time includes him downloading the Arduino IDE and getting it installed on his laptop.

Here’s a short video of it just after we got it working

I hadn’t heard the Audino before, but was impressed with how good it sounds, and it’s just five potentiometers and an Arduino. You could build one for much less than £30. Plenty of the other musicians there were really impressed with what a lovely noise it makes.

Our “already made” contribution came from Ross. At the past couple of hackspace meetings he’s been playing around with infra-red distance sensors, an Arduino and some python MIDI code and had got his IR Guitar ready just in time for the event.

And here’s a video of Ross demonstrating it.

I think the next step is getting the distance from the sensor to control something, such as different notes or different volume, but waving your hands about in mid-air is a fun way to play an instrument.

I had hoped to build some of the Chiptune Orchestra instruments too, but although I’d made sure I’d bought all the parts I needed from their partslist, I didn’t spot that there isn’t a circuit diagram available yet. We did start playing around building an oscillator circuit with the chips I’d bought, but there was too much going on to really get stuck into it. Maybe at the next hackspace meeting…

The Gigs

The music in the evening was a great way to round off a fun day. If I remember correctly, the line up was…

PixelH8, playing songs on his Nintendo DS synth.

Then Mike Blow played a couple of pieces, including this atmospheric one built up from a field recording in a tunnel under the river Elbe. I’m still not quite sure how he managed to get the cathedral bells outside to start up at such a perfect time in the dying moments of the work.

Stretta was up next. I can’t find anything that shows what his stuff was like to experience live, but this video and about 3 minutes into this video give you an idea of the sorts of thing he was playing with and using to create his music. The Monone interfaces he was using are beautifully designed and made.

And the night finished with The Amazing Rolo playing stuff through his Wiimote software and his musical jam jars. You can get an idea of what it was like by watching this, but there’s more music on his website.

Next Liverpool meeting – Tuesday 8th September, 7pm

September 3, 2009

For this next meeting we’re heading over to the Bad Format Social Club near the flyover. In addition to the usual playing with bits of hardware and chatting about code and electronics and whatever else comes up, we’ll be having a play with some of the hardware that Scott (who runs Bad Format) has been collecting.

As he said in a recent email to the mailling list…

“[Scott is] looking to recreate the look and feel of old computers from the 50’s/60’s but add functionality with screens and web connections, etc.  So the badformat community, in theory, could manipulate the features of the bar remotely.. from the bar playlist to visuals to the operation of machines.

I have a budget for cool ideas and am building up a stock of portable tv’s old games, old synths, tons of random electrical stuff, nixie tubes, and all of that old electrical stuff that will make everything look like some sort of fucked up apocalypse bunker from 1952.”

There are details of where the bar is on the upcoming page for the meeting.

Recent Liverpool Meeting Reports

August 17, 2009
Uses for an oomlout resistor kit

Since the last meeting report there have actually been two meetings of the Liverpool hackspace group.  I didn’t have chance to write up the first before the two weeks had elapsed and it was time for the next.  So I figured I’d give a brief update on each meeting here.

A shot of the meeting in action at 3345 Parr Street

July 28th, at 3345 Parr Street

Once again the date clashed with GeekUp and so we joined forces to encourage some more of the software guys to try getting to grips with resistors and motors and all things hardware hacking.

There was a great turnout, and there was even some hacking.  I was in the middle of building stuff for a project (Twacky Races, an RFID scavenger hunt) and so Thom and I set about bending a wire coathanger and connecting it to an Arduino-controlled stepper motor to build a chocolate-machine-style vending mechanism.

Ross from Sound Network also called in and told us about the upcoming Interface Amnesty event that they’re organising.  It’s a day of musical hardware hacking at the end of September – hopefully Ross will post some details to the mailing list when he gets back from holiday.

August 11th, at Mello Mello

The most recent meeting saw us back at Mello Mello, with another great turn out.  We welcomed a few new attendees, including one all the way from Slovakia (she happened to be in Liverpool scouting out whether or not she wanted to move here).

RFID got some more discussion, and I demoed some of my Touchatag code for Windows and also the OpenFrameworks coding framework.  There was also some discussion about building rotary encoders (for measuring wind speed and also Venya talked us through the one he’s building); some initial brainstorming about projects to build at Interface Amnesty (I’m thinking of putting together an Auduino, and Ross wants to build a laser harp); and information was shared about the mbed microcontroller board, Tinkerkit and the programming language Scratch.

I’m sure there were plenty of other topics covered – those are just the ones I was part of.

Next Meeting?

We’ll coincide with GeekUp again for the next meeting, so it will be at 3345 Parr Street, on Tuesday 25th August.  Keep an eye out for the announcement on the mailing list to confirm that nearer the time.

Next Liverpool Meeting on Tuesday 14th July

July 10, 2009

We’ll be back at Mello Mello (and can see how the refurbishment went) next week.

Things will kick off on Tuesday 14th July at 7pm and probably last until the guys at Mello Mello look like they want to kick us out, like last time, around 9-ish.

Bring your Arduino or hardware project to play with, or just come along for a chat.  Full details on the upcoming page.

Liverpool Meeting 17th June 2009

June 22, 2009

Last Wednesday saw our best hackspace meeting yet.  Our largest turnout (even with a couple more people sending their apologies), in the new location at Mello Mello, and there were even Arduinos connected up to computers.

I got as far as downloading the new Ethernet library and firing up the Arduino IDE, but then got side-tracked into chatting about hardware and finding out about the hacking activities that some of the other attendees had been getting up to.  Before long the staff were making “closing up” motions, so we called the “official” meeting to an end – and a couple of us retired to The Peacock round the corner to continue chatting over a beer.

Most of the evening was spent pretty informally, just getting to know each other and catching up, but we had a couple of minutes of more formal updates on how things are progressing.  Asa updated us on his early-stage work towards a Manchester hackspace (hopefully more on that soon when he has more to share), and I did likewise on the possible spaces for a permanent Liverpool hackspace.  Mello Mello seems a reasonable first step for holding meetings, and whilst the group is finding its feet I’m not rushing to find a full-time space.  However, even without really trying, there are a number of possibilites presenting themselves: Venya is hoping to get a new space for The Kazimier to use as a workshop, so we may be able to use part of that for a hackspace; and Scott from Bad Format is keen to kit out their new bar with lots of interesting hardware and might have some spare workshop room.  I should be able to report back more at the next meeting.

And the next meeting was the main other point discussed.  Following discussion on the mailing list, we debated whether or not to move the meetings to Tuesday evening rather than Wednesday.  On balance we decided that Tuesday fitted in better with people, with the only problem being that from time to time it would coincide with GeekUp Liverpool.  When that happens we decided to just merge the two meetings (as there’s a fair crossover between the groups already) and as luck would have it, the next meeting will be the first to clash.  So the next Liverpool Hackspace meeting will be a joint meeting with GeekUp Liverpool at 3345 Parr Street on Tuesday 30th June 2009 (and then we’ll be back to Mello Mello for the 14th July)

First Stockport Hackspace Meeting Announced

June 11, 2009

Following the discussions about the possibility of using Broadstone Mill in Stockport as a hackspace venue, the idea takes a step nearer to reality with the first hackspace meeting in Stockport.

The initial meeting will be just next-door to the mill at the Grey Horse Public House on Wednesday 24 June at 7pm.  Manchester people should note that although this is in the Stockport postcode area, it’s nearer the centre of Manchester than Didsbury is – you don’t have to venture outside the M60! 😉

The meeting will discuss the concept of hackspaces, our possible location (Broadstone Mill – the building next door) and much more (hopefully)!

If you’re intending to come, please show your interest on the Upcoming page for the event.

A New Venue for Liverpool Meetings

June 8, 2009
The interior of Mello Mello in Liverpool

The interior of Mello Mello in Liverpool

As mentioned in the last meeting report, there’s been some discussion about a more suitable location for the Liverpool Hackspace meetings and Mello Mello has been mentioned more than once as a candidate.

The topic came up again in the bar after the recent Howduino hackday when I was discussing the hackspace with Venya, Howduino attendee and local artist using Arduinos to make cool theatrical masterpieces as part of The Kazimier.

Venya works upstairs in the Mello Mello building, and so scoped out whether we could hold the fortnightly meetings there.  They’re quite happy to host us, preferably on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening (which fits in perfectly) and so I popped down for a quick tour.  The photo on the left is taken from the stage end of the cafe looking down towards the cafe counter (which is through the doorway at the far end, where there’s even more seating).

The cafe has a friendly, relaxed vibe, and the old dining table seating would be perfect for spreading out projects.  There are also plenty of power sockets, free WiFi (I’m told, my N95 didn’t spot any on a quick search) and some of the best coffee I’ve tasted since returning from Italy.

It’s definitely much better than the bar at FACT, so I think we should start holding the meetings here and see how things go.  I’ll bring my 3G dongle in case there’s no other option for Internet access, and an extension cable could be handy for sharing out power.

Mello Mello is on the corner of Slater Street and Parr Street, so just down the road from FACT.  See the Mello Mello website for full address and map.

Liverpool Meeting 20th May 2009

May 24, 2009

Last Wednesday saw the third Liverpool Hackspace meeting, and the second that I was able to attend.  With a couple of the regulars unable to make it (can we have regulars after only three meetings? 🙂 it was a relatively low-key affair, but we did welcome a new attendee, Mike.  I think it shows the benefit of having some obvious indicator or who the hackers are – Mike had been down before and didn’t find the group, and was on the verge of giving up this time when he spotted Bubblino and introduced himself.

We chatted about what we’re trying to do with finding a venue for hacking either on a permanent basis, or even for the fortnightly meetings whilst we’re building momentum; compared projects; and Thom and I even got in some Howduino planning.

I think the next step is to find a more soldering-iron-friendly venue than the bar at FACT, so the meetings can evolve into some time to work on projects, share expertise and show anyone who drops by the sorts of things we get up to.  There were a number of possibilities discussed during the meeting, and a few more that I’ve found through random discussions with people about the group over the past couple of weeks.

The Art Organisation are a group that keep coming up in discussions for either a permanent hackspace, or just using Mello Mello for the meetings.  Thom has a meeting room at his office that we could use for the meetings, although that makes it trickier for people to just drop-by; and there are a few different artists groups that I’ve bumped into who’ve offered to let us hold meetings in their studio space.

I doubt I’ll have time to sort something out for the next meeting (which I’ll also miss as I’m on holiday) but maybe one topic for discussion is what we’d want from a meeting space, or whether we take the group “on tour” round a number of spaces in Liverpool and see what interesting things come out of that.