Archive for the ‘report’ Category

Maker Night, a Review and Slides

January 22, 2011

There was a great turn out for Maker Night on Wednesday, and it seemed to go down well. I’ve written a bit about it and posted my slides over on my blog.

They’ll be held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, at the Art & Design Academy on Duckinfield Street. 6:30pm for a 7pm start.

A Hackspace for the Potteries

May 5, 2010

A brief write-up, but it’s getting late 😉
North Staffs’ inaugural GeekUp meeting attracted people from Liverpool, Cheshire & Stoke-on-Trent to discuss setting up local hackspaces. Present were:
Adrian McEwen
Dave Verwer
Tom Bloor
Dan Smith
Alex Beech
Charlie Owen
Dave Roberts
Mark Brereton
Robert Marshall
Kay Foulkes
& Richard Smedley
With apologies from Carl Plant.
Mark Brereton is involved in the Empty Shops initiative in Hanley, as well as various arts projects re-purposing old buildings in Burslem. He put the group onto a couple of good possible venues for Potteries Hackspace, and discussion soon moved to how to finance and expand the space.
Attendees were particularly keen to set up education events to get the young generation hacking – watch this space for more news, or subscribe to the new Google group.

Liverpool Meeting – 20th October 2009

October 29, 2009

A fairly low turnout at the last meeting, mainly due to it only being announced the day before the event, it clashing with GeekUp Chester, and having to switch venues on the day.

We ended up in the bar upstairs at FACT, looking slightly out-of-place with the ebb and flow of cinema-goers. Still, Dominic managed to find us for his first visit to one of the meetings, and he even lugged this rather impressive battery box from his electric bike project along with him.

He accidentally connected the charging circuit up the wrong way a while back, and fears that he’s released some of the magic smoke that makes it all work. He was hoping that we might be able to shed some light on how to check if the MosFETs are still okay, but all we managed was some commiserating and general poking around at the circuit. One for the future I think…

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.

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.

Stockport & SE Manchester

July 13, 2009

Posted on behalf of Jon “The Nice Guy” Spriggs

On the 24th June, 14 people met in the Grey Horse pub in Reddish to discuss the foundation of a Hack Space in Stockport. We agreed that we are more interested in working with hardware and electronics than (particularly) software, that we would be happy paying between £15-£20 per month, with scheduled meetings every two weeks on varying days, loosely using the NWDC calendar to ensure limited conflicts on dates.

That said, in between scheduled meetings, once we get a regular venue, there would be nothing to stop regular members from using the space if all members had a copy of the key to get into the space or a pass card to get us in there (depending on the eventual venue). Andrew, a member who is already located within the Mill, said he would ask Broadstone Mill’s lettings people about prices and ideas of what spaces we could use, while I said I would contact another location which was reasonably close – SafeStore, to see what sort of prices this location could offer. The group also said that while members appreciate the overarching group of NW HackSpace, they don’t want to clutter up the list with Stockport specific traffic, hence the creation of an alternative list –

After this, we had some drinks, and were talking about all sorts of topics until last orders. Out next meeting will be at the same location on Saturday 18th July at 7pm. The Upcoming event page is

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)

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.