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Mar 132010

Since everyone else appears to be at SXSW, I suppose I’ll have to step up for today’s March Madness. I bring you: a screen scraper for retail products on ecommerce sites.

While I’m hardly the first person to write such a tool, finding useful examples or libraries among the hundreds of pages of screen scraper spam has proven difficult. I ended up writing one from scratch in PHP using the DomDocument object.

The goal of the scraper is to come up with the product title, price, and 3 most likely product photos from any given product URL. In order to make it a bit faster (it’s pretty painfully slow), I attempt to filter out images which are obviously not product photos (those which are very long/tall, those which are not displayed in the browser). Then for a bit of extra fun, it sorts the image array by it’s “likeliness” to be a product photo. Obviously it needs some refining to actually be useful.

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Thank You!!

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Feb 152010

Our Kickstarter campaign wrapped up this morning, and we’re blown away by the support we’ve received. All told we raised over $3,000 ($3,000.96 to be exact). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Work is commencing on the space, with the first round of paint going up today. Contractors have been hard at work knocking out the bricked in windows to put in new ones, so for the time being it’s a bit chilly in the new space.

We’ll post more photos as we get things done, but here are a few Bre took last week:

Here’s the front room. The fisheye lens makes it look quite a bit bigger than it is, but it’s still a decently sized space! The ladder on the right goes up to a small storage loft, which is above what will become the new laser room. Incidentally, the laser is too large to fit through the door of said room, but that’s nothing a hammer can’t fix. Off the frame to the left is the bathroom and what will become the kitchen area.

NYCResistor 2.0

Next is the back room. This room needs quite a bit of work, as it turns out the superficial floor is pretty gnarly and sagging. We’re putting in a sort of false flooring to smooth things out. As a bonus, we can run Ethernet and audio cables through it so we won’t have to trip over things! There’s talk about a secret compartment for permanently installed DDR pads… Behind the camera is another loft, and at the end of the room you can see a small stage.

NYCResistor 2.0

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to our Kickstarter fund. If you opted to get a ‘reward’ we’ll be in touch shortly to get your address.


Feb 142010

Due to extreme hacking (we just placed an order for breakfast/dinner delivery) there is little to no chance any of us will be awake by 10am. We’ll open things up at noon. Pass the word on! We’d hate to have anyone waiting out in the cold for us.

Train Drama

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Feb 132010

As usual, the MTA is being squirrely this weekend. The R, which usually stops right on our block, is skipping our station (and a host of others) this weekend. Thankfully the R is indeed stopping at Dekalb, which is only a few blocks away (one stop farther into Brooklyn).

The A/C and 2/3 are also being a bit wacky, although they’re at least stopping here. Check the MTA site for info on your route.

Feb 092010

When I went to boot up an old computer which had sat dormant since I moved in April, nothing happened. No lights, no whirring, nothing. I assumed it was a bad power supply, and left it for another day. Over the weekend my boyfriend got sick of seeing it out, guts exposed to the world, and threw a new power supply in it. Still no life. Then he pulled out everything but the motherboard, and it booted! Or at least, as much as a computer with just a motherboard can.

As he added each component in one by one, the culprit became clear without even having to power up the machine:

exploded capacitors

Not seeing it? Here, let me get a little closer:

This is, or was, my video card. A reasonably nice (at the time) 7600 GT. The most remarkable thing is that this is not the first time I've seen this happen to this particular card. In fact, it's the third. Two other friends of mine have had theirs blow capacitors as well. And a google search for "exploding capacitors 7600" brings up tons of results.

Goodbye, video card. We have these in a number of the computers in the house, including my main machine. I wonder how long it will be until the next one goes.

Feb 062010

Don’t forget to register for the hackathon! It’s totally free, but we’re asking folks to sign up so we can get an idea of how many people to expect!

NYC Resistor’s first 48 hour hackathon will run from 6pm Friday, Feburary 12 to 6pm Sunday, February 14. At the end of the hackfest there will be time to share your projects as well as exciting prizes for the most awesome hacks.

You can work by yourself or with a team, and if you don’t have a team/project we’ll assign you to one. Projects we’ve heard buzz about include:

  • Re-enabling the 1930’s teletype
  • Building props to do a trivia quiz. Buzzers, lights, etc
  • Subway wifi radio station aka “Radio Free MTA”

The format is open, you’re welcome to come and go as you please. We’ll keep the Club Mate flowing and follow a loose schedule of demos and workshops to help spark your imagination. PS, interested in giving a demo of some sort at the hackathon? Contact Kelly!

Friday, Feb 12

6pm – 8pm: Intros and whatnot. There’s no formal registration, but it would be nice if folks introduced themselves and what they’re working on

8pm – 12am: hack hack hack hack hack

Saturday, Feb 13

12am-4pm: hack hack hack hack

Afternoon-ish: Makerbot demo! Watch as Widget produces widgets with his magical printing device!

12pm – 2pm: Soldering lab! Practice your soldering skills. We’ll have some of the TV-Be-Gone kits on hand for folks who want to learn to solder (or just irritate employees at Best Buy)

4pm – 6pm: GO EAT SOMETHING. We’ll need to make space for the Audio Fun with Coils class from 4-6, so it’s a good excuse to get some food, take a shower, reunite with your kids, etc.

4pm – 12am:  hack hack hack hack hack

Sunday, Feb 14

12am – 5pm: hack hack hack hack

7am: Late night breakfast. We’ll strike out for food before the valentine’s day brunchers are even awake.

5pm: PRESENTATIONS! Everyone will get a few minutes to show off what they did. We promise this won’t be long and painful.

5:45- 6pm: We’ll award awesome awards, tidy up, and have you all home in time for Valentine’s dinner.

Jan 252010

Over the weekend we hit our goal of $2000, less than 5 days into the 25 day run! Thank you everyone who contributed, it means a lot to us. The outpouring of support has been nothing short of amazing.

If you wanted to contribute but haven't yet, you still can! We set our goal at the bare minimum we needed to make this happen, but will continue to accept contributions. The total cost of the move comes in at around $10,000, so every single dollar will be put to good use. 

Thanks again to everyone who donated, twittered, blogged, etc. We can't wait to get into the new space and start making it awesome.

Jan 222010

I’ve been slowly (very slowly) setting up a small store at Resistor to carry electronics parts and prototyping tools, since there aren’t any retail stores in town where you can pick up an Arduino RIGHT NOW. While ordering parts and figuring out where it will all go, I had a vision:

Vending machine full of components!

I’ve been surfing Craigslist and eBay, and while I’m not allowed to bring any new equipment into the space until we’re all settled in post-move, it looks like a used vending machine can be found for $300 – $700 depending on what you’re looking for. Since I’m overridden with debts, I’m kind of keeping from purchasing the machine. I’m glad I took an iva, because half my debts got cleared because of that last time. 

One of the old school snack machines sounds just about perfect, but the one we found can only handle prices up to $3.95. Most vending machine hacks I was able to find were about getting free stuff out of them, not modding them to sell out of. Another fun hack which probably wouldn’t be terribly difficult would be hooking it up to the net and letting people pay with PayPal or credit card.

I’ll continue to hunt for the perfect machine, but in the mean time I’d love to hear about any vending machine hacks folks have seen or done. Because clearly what we need a robot who sells robot parts!

Jan 202010 is, in their words, “a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.” They connect people with ideas to the funds needed to make things happen.

Our upcoming move is nothing if not an ambitious endeavor. In addition to the logistical challenge of moving an entire hackerspace full of bizarre and wonderful stuff, we need to prepare the new space with things like a fresh coat of paint and a plethora of electrical outlets. It’s a fair amount of money to come up with in a short time. As such, we’ve started a Kickstarter project for the move, and we’re humbly asking help from members of our community.

For many of us, NYC Resistor is a labor of love. We’re painfully aware of the delicate balance between keeping our space as open and accessible as possible and being able to pay the bills on time. We feel this move is a giant step in the direction of awesome. With our new space, we’ll no longer be stuck deciding whether to host a class which brings in money or have the space available for open hacking. We’ll finally be able to do both.

More than 80% of the funds needed to move to and build out the new space have already been contributed by our own members, and we’re using Kickstarter to bridge the gap to our goal. Even the smallest contributions mean an incredible amount to us. Contributors will be immortalized on a sweet plaque at Resistor, along with some other “thank yous” outlined at Kickstarter. Click below to read our full project description!

Nov 192009

Thanks everyone who came out to Intro to Algorithms this past Sunday, we had way more turnout that I was expecting! About 15 people in all. 

We'll be picking up the course again this week on Sunday at 5. It's OK if you missed last week, just watch lecture 1 at home and take a look over the homework / reading assignments.

We've started a Google Group to further the discussion of the class materials: NYCResistor: Compsci. This group is open to everyone, including folks who aren't coming to the in-person classes but are watching the material at home. 

See you on Sunday!