Dec 172014
 

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By day, I tell computers what to do. I like to think that I’m okay at doing that. On the weekend, I sometimes make radio things or build off-the-wall electronics projects at Resistor. I’m not quite as okay at that. It’s quite rare, though, that I make something tangible which has no physical function other than its own form. Long ago, I watched my grandfather build things out of wood: tables, benches, once even a dollhouse. Recently, my friends welcomed their son into the world, and as the holidays are approaching I thought a perfect gift would be a set of wooden blocks made by hand. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to dabble in woodworking and create something completely non-electronic, non-code for a change. Continue reading »

Dec 112014
 

Join us this Saturday, December 13th, at 1-4pm as we dump our hoards of paper out on the table and make a bunch of things out of it!

Tickets are $10 here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/make-along-paper-holiday-cards-tickets-14889423667?ref=ebapi

Things you can work on (and which we can help you with) at this Make-Along are:
Holiday Cards, All Occasion Cards, Book Binding, Pop-Ups, Paper Sculptures and objects, Automata, Origami, Kirigami, Gifts for Mommy, Paper electronics-y, and who knows, maybe we will bring some potatoes and rubber erasers for doing some fun+cheap printmaking (oh right we also have an intaglio press if you want to get fancy).
Bring your own paper and tools OR come use ours, we have a lot. Never used an X-Acto before? We can teach you! Scared of paper cuts? We have lemon juice for that! Just kidding, that stings. Neosporin is what you want. Lemon juice makes a fun invisible ink though, maybe you want to try that instead. Just put a band-aid over your paper cuts first.

We are also offering a special Make-A-Long Pass that will give you (or a loved one) access to all of next year’s Make-A-long workshops – a $120 value for just $75. Get ready for another Nail Art Make-Along in January!

Who is running this Make-Along?
Shelby Arnold – a professional paper engineer in the studio of Robert Sabuda (fancy words for pop-up book designer) and amateur bookbinder. She also plays with paper electronics and paper clockmaking.

Colleen AF Venable – a professional book designer and lover of tiny handmade books, from mini-comics to zines. She just finished art directing a two foot tall paper craft book with Workman Publishing on making giant paper machines—like diggers, trucks, dirigibles—with moving parts. She really likes the word dirigible.

Dec 092014
 

Join us for a two part discussion on Bitcoin by Andrew Sheppard. Andrew (“Shep”) is a consultant on Wall Street who works in the areas of Big Data and Big Compute. He is also a part-time professor teaching on the Masters in Financial Engineering (MFE) program at Baruch College.

Bitcoin is a new form of electronic cash growing in popularity. As a system it is a protocol, a P2P network, and a bunch of cryptographic algorithms. Oh, and add a new form of global currency to that list. In short, Bitcoin is a bundle of technology and economic concepts all rolled into one.

Bitcoin is also like the tooth fairy: most have heard about it, but few have actually encountered it for real. And even those who have actually encountered Bitcoin don’t really know what it is at a basic (read “fundamental”) level; in particular, too emphasis is placed on the technology and not enough on the economics of Bitcoin, though both are highly novel. This talk remedies that.

Reserve a seat, it’s FREE

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Dec 022014
 

Want to drive more LEDs with fewer IO pins? Then you might be interested in the Charlieplexing technique. I’ve written an example sketch can drive six LEDs each with 8-bit PWM using the three IO pins on the Adafruit GEMA microcontroller and is a fairly easy sewable LED sequin project since there are no crossed wires when it is stitched with conductive thread. Enjoy the short video of it in action below and read on for more details…

Nov 162014
 

Are you worried that you’re not paranoid enough about your communications security and want to improve your OpSec? Edward Snowden says to trust in encryption, but you still need to worry about the systems that run it:

Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.

One step towards going “Full-Snowden” is with hardware storage of your PGP secret keys! The Yubikey Neo and Neo-N USB tokens are a neat (and not too expensive) way to keep the secret part of your RSA2048 keys locked in a hardware device rather than stored as a file on your harddrive. The hardware tokens are compatible with the OpenPGP card protocol, which recent versions of gnupg support out-of-the-box. All of the public-key cryptography happens inside the tamper-proof device, so your secret key is never decrypted in the memory nor stored on disk of your machine.

Since setting up the key pairs and transferring the secret ones to the device can be tricky the first time, I wrote a brief guide to configuring Yubikeys as OpenPGP crypto-hardware tokens. They integrate nicely with Apple’s Mail.app (or mutt with gpg-agent), so there is one less excuse for not protecting your email.

Nov 162014
 

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Due to a fire the laser is down again this week. Laser night will be open for hacking, but alas no lazzzoring. You may have noticed we’ve been experiencing a lot of downtime lately. This is the current state of the laser:

The laser is old

Our laser has been in pretty consistent use for seven years. Many projects and even companies have been built on it. We’ve done our best to do regular maintenance and upgrades, but it’s nobody’s job and so it doesn’t always get done.

The laser is abused

Not all materials are created equal. We try to make sure people do burn tests to make sure we’re not doing damage to the laser, but it’s not perfect. Even wood and acrylic can be hard on it when doing long jobs with thick material. Everything that is lasered away ends up gunking up the lenses and mirrors.

The laser needs more air

The ventilation system that we have hooked up to the laser is also old and it’s underpowered at this point. We need new blower, hoses and filters. This will be a significant upgrade, and we may not have the finances to do this ourselves.

So that’s where we’re at. Stay tuned, we’re putting together a plan and we’re probably going to need help. Thanks for your patience and support!

Update: We’ve been working on the ventilation system this week, and work continues on figuring out the power problems. We hope to have the laser back in action in a week or so. Thanks for your patience!

Hack Holyoke

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Nov 102014
 

Hardware checkout at Hack Holyoke
Last Friday was the Hack Holyoke 24-hour embedded systems hackathon, held at Mt Holyoke College. Of the 200 participants, well over half were women from the Seven Sisters schools and many were attending their first hackathon.

Hack Holyoke dance party
One of the distinguishing features of this hackathon was a 2am dance party! Every event should include one.

You can read @HackHolyoke twitter stream and read on for some photos of a few of the teams.

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