Outerz0ne 3 talk

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"Hacker", old and busted. "Maker", new hotness

Make Magazine, Instructables, Hack A Day, these are hackers/makers/doers. People trying to make new things and existing things better. This talk will revolve around how to get organized enough with friends and peers to start working on new ideas instead of just talking about them, followed by some example of what can be done.



Reference Links

Outline sorta

To explain the title a bit, hackers have always been the ones out there tweaking things, making them better, making them into something new but all that fell to the way side for the most part when it became a lot cheaper just to buy a PC, buy mass produced board, or buy a gadget instead of making your own. Everything sort of went into a, I want to say dark age here but that's not fair considering we all still had it pretty good.....a dim age so to speak. In recent years though, things have picked up and a new term cropped up, "maker". Different word for the same thing, something a little more socially acceptable since "hacker" has been sullied by the media. It's cool to mod things now, there are whole sites dedicated to it. People are in their garages making new things again. My friends and I, hsv2600 people mostly, are always coming up with crazy ideas when we're sitting around talking about random stuff. Everything from portable modular photobooths and a 3.7 terabyte fileserver in a pirate chest to guerilla drive-ins. The problem was it was all talk and less action despite the fact we all hungout together both online and off outside of 2600 meetings. We all have lives and there were just too many distractions. Often times we'd forget about the ideas we came up with, which is a real shame because we came up with some real gems.

  1. Brimstone remedied this issue by creating a wiki where projects could be documented and users could provide input on them. I soon added my projects to it as well.
    • This was still "all talk", but now it was documented.
    • [Show local instance of the wiki so as to not reveal it's location. Go through some of the pages(brimstone's and strages's)]
    • Document everything. Pictures, reference links, drawings, etc.
  2. It was determined that we needed to meet periodically to work on these projects where time is dedicated only toward making progress on them. No distractions(movies, music, etc).Around the same time we came up with the idea of meeting to work on these projects, the TechShop in San Francisco, CA opened and the idea was brought up of setting up a shop of our own. This project was added to the wiki and is still an active one, as we haven't found a space yet. Meetings began shortly there after as a temporary thing to keep the spirit of it alive until we could setup a shop that would be open all the time.
  3. When having meetings like this, keep the key concepts in mind.....working on projects and no distractions.
    • Schedule them in advance to give time to work around other things people have planned.
    • Try to meet at least once a week.
    • Whether one person or twenty show up, stay focused and work on projects.
    • Any progress made whether in concept or something physical should be considered a success.
    • Again, Document everything.
    • [show some of the best pictures from meetings]
  4. Determine a medium to communicate outside of meetings and share ideas.
    • The wiki is for documenting projects and progress, not open discussion(flame wars).
      • It's important to stay on focus when documenting.
      • We've toyed around with the idea of an ajax shoutbox or something on the wiki itself to help coordinate editing better though.
    • That being said, IRC works for us.

Interest picked up fast in the wiki once it was made public, within our circle of friends and later to others, and soon we had several users and most all of them were adding projects of their own.

[Show the wiki again. Go through user list and special pages -> all pages. Show recent changes]

One of the great things about putting a group together like this is that you don't have to know everything. You're putting together a lot of different skill sets, so you can get creative with project ideas beyond what you're capable of doing on your own. This kind of environment breeds innovation.

Now onto the fun stuff, what we've accomplished....


While doing my usual web surfing I saw that JWZ was going to start building a photobooth, which I thought was really cool until I realized I had no place to put one. Then it hit me, make it portable somehow and take it to parties and cons etc. [Show initial drawings] [Show meeting pictures where we refined the design]

Everyone had input into the project and several design revisions were made before construction actually began. [Show build picture showing the original seat size] [Show later pictures after the resizing]

As you can see we had to resize this a bit in order to make it able to fit in the backseat or trunk of a car. [Show final build pictures, painting etc] [unpack the photobooth and set it up]


  • history
    • was a 1T VCR
    • got the 1T, already used it
    • got the pirate chest idea, probably sitting at iHop
  • gathering of parts and ideas
    • found the chest on woodenchests.com (not one of Catonic's sites)
    • several design changes
    • ended up with simple aluminum frame for ASUS mobo
    • found 750GB drives instead of 400GB drives for not much more
    • motherboard didn't support hardware raid
    • took about 2 weeks of actual time to build
  • began The Great Rsync of 2006
  • maintenance
    • found fan settings, made the whole thing quieter
    • learned sounds of the drives
      • can tell when roommates are streaming video off it
      • can tell when mythtv is writing to it


  • building pictures
  • penny arcade comic?

Bring Popcorn

The idea came up one night at IHOP about how cool it would be to watch a movie outside sometime like at a drive-in. After we left IHOP and aside from some related minor tinkering with making an FM transmitter, the idea soon fell to the wayside and was all but forgotten. My projector dieing had a little something to do with that as well. "Out of sight, out of mind" and all. About a year later I had finally managed to purchase a new projector when the idea came back to the forefront. Again at IHOP, I had my new projector there with me to show it off and I mentioned the idea again when someone suggested that we should try it out that night. I knew the perfect wall to test it on from a scouting venture for locations after the previous IHOP visit a year earlier and it was right across the street.

[candidate 1 photo]

We managed to get the image large enough to cover the entire height of the wall, not bad for a such a small projector.

[test 1 image]

Audio became a concern now when brimstone had the idea of using his tiny Belkin FM transmitter. We managed to get the audio across three cars, barely and with the doors practically touching. A week later and after the purchase of a 1W Ramsey FM transmitter, we had no idea how much power we needed so we went for overkill, we did a second test and had some of the guys drive around the parking lot to see if the audio coverage was good, which it was of course. It wasn't until after the first public performance did we realize we might want to turn it down a bit when someone told us they listened to the movie audio for most of their trip home a couple of miles down the road.

[test 2 image showing it being powered off the BMW]

We initially powered it off an inverter hooked up to a cigarette lighter in Nathan's new BMW. We soon figured out that not all cars were capable of powering the setup(FM transmitter, projector and, laptop) after several blown fuses, late starts, and mid movie power failures.

[picture of marine battery setup]

We fixed this by powering it all off a rather large marine battery. Roughly 5 hours of uninterrupted power, which worked great until we figured out that it riding around in my trunk was causing them to short out and not hold a charge. I say them because we went through three before we figured this out, I know we're idiots.

[picture of AGM battery setup]

A move to an AGM battery fixed this issue.

[slideshow of the best image from each of the 13 movies]

We managed to do 13 movies in the same location with only a couple of minor altercations with a shoe store manager who didn't like us being there. No cops, just a couple of cop cars.

[picture of Kris's car at bring popcorn] [picture of AMC Javelin at bring popcorn]

Perhaps the wiki pages for these three projects should be shown as they're being discussed.