Dublin Maker 2014

2014-Jul-28, Monday 09:06 pm
chebe: (Default)
If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed a rise in the number of barely sensical tweets lately. That is the effect a deadline has on me. Last Saturday, 26th July, was Dublin Maker 2014. It was the events first time as an independent entity (previously Dublin Mini-Maker Faire). And it was a fantastic day! I didn't get to see as much of the other makers as I had wanted to, but I loved what I did see, and from all the photos, videos, and write-ups coming in everyone had a great time.

This year along with the event getting bigger, the branding also got much better. Check out my beautiful ladies-fit tshirt, and badges.

Black tshirt with white Dublin Maker logo, white and blue laser-cut badge, and blue and white soldering kit badge

Swag
Photo by chebe



White rolled icing decorated cake with blue and yellow logo

Cake!
Photo by chebe



This year was also my first year not exhibiting with TOG. They still had a very large, very hectic stand, but this year I've been collaborating with Niki Collier on some felt wearable tech pieces. We went under the name Adore, Adorn, Play and ended up with three wonderful pieces to show;
  • Jewellery that predicts the weather
  • Jewellery that can cure a cough, and
  • a waistcoat that lets you know your boss is standing behind you.


I'll do up individual posts over the next few days about each piece (you are here for the minute techie details right?). For now I'll mention the unofficial fourth piece; my fascinator.

Purple petaled felt daffodil with green headband and leaf, with a white LED and fibre optics core

The best kind of daffodil
Photo by chebe



While I was debugging some problems at one of our sessions in the weeks before Dublin Maker Niki started working on felting me a headpiece to wear on the day. I love daffodils, and I love purple. So, with no small amount of magic, in short time, she turned a pile of fibre, soap, and water into this beautiful headpiece! The Friday night before DM, I actually managed to get home before midnight. But found myself wired, and in the wee small hours rigged my flower up with an LED (complete with hot glued fibre optics and rubber tubes) and a battery.

Purple petaled felt daffodil with green headband and leaf, with a white LED and fibre optics core

Daffodil power!
Photo by chebe



It's just done quickly by stabbing two holes for the LED legs through the middle of the flower, and connecting them to the battery terminals with conductive thread (and a hint of fabric paint to avoid shorts). I got many compliments on it during the day, and wore it all night! (At which point people actually began to notice that it lit up *harrumph*) It now has pride of place among my growing LED flower collection.

It was a great, if exhausting day. And I'm already looking forward to both next years DM, and to working with Niki on more projects.

New Gadget; CuBox

2014-Jun-30, Monday 08:35 pm
chebe: (AsciiC)
I've always wanted my own server. Although I haven't exactly had much need for one. Then I heard about these little beauties; the CuBox (or rather one with the older chipset). For some scale here it is next to a 250ml teapot and a one-Euro coin.

CuBox next to a 250ml glass teapot and one-Euro coin

Just too cute
Photo by chebe



It arrived with Ubuntu (10.04!) installed, which would just not do. So I copied all the cool kids and installed Arch linux on it. For that extra-low-level feel. I actually used the CuBox installer, which was very simple to use. But Arch is very stripped down, so I then had the fun of installing all the things I normally take for granted. Like vim, and sudo. Though to be fair, once I figured out that the package manager was called pacman, and an update is just pacman -Syu, things got much easier.

I've configured it up as a DNS server, and installed this dotey USB wifi dongle. So now it can sit happily next to the power socket (all the other cables unplugged), and I can ssh in to it. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I need it for, but at the very least I'm going to play around with mongodb and django for a bit.
chebe: (Sewing Machine)
It has been a busy few weeks! From dipping my feet in the fog cloaked Pacific Ocean, to walking along the bright three-hours-of-night Baltic Sea, and all within a month. From San Francisco to Stockholm, I somehow managed to not visit any hackerspaces. I just didn't have the time. Work sent me to the Bay Area for training, and I went to Stockholm to take a sewing course.

Stockholm is very easy to get around. The city centre not being that sprawled means you can easily walk around all day. But there's also public bikes, buses, trams, and trains. Everyone is friendly and has great English, which is just super convenient for the clueless tourist like myself.

However, the number of similarities between not only Swedish/English, but also Swedish/Irish is quite interesting. For example, button in Swedish; knapp, and button in Irish; cnaipe, pronounced almost identically. And then there's the Irish Viking place names, and Irish Norman family names... It's almost like they're related in some way ;)

But, back to the course! It was two days of exhaustive sewing. And I mean exhausting. I was falling asleep on the twenty minute train journey back to my hotel each day. Clearly I would never be able to do anything as strenuous as the Great British Sewing Bee!

Details and pictures )

Collaborations

2014-May-19, Monday 07:19 pm
chebe: (Default)
The theme for this year does very much seem to be collaborations. So many talented, hard-working, fascinating people with great ideas to work with! It hurts to not be able to do everything. But sometimes, even if I can't go somewhere my projects find their way regardless.

First [twitter.com profile] partfusion and [twitter.com profile] Jeffrey_Roe wandered off to MakerFaireUK with a couple. But then [twitter.com profile] partfusion absconded, with the glove I was working on at Artek, to MakerFaireBayArea(!). It's more traveled than I am at this point. Speaking of, [twitter.com profile] partfusion has started his own collaboration, resulting in some beautiful garments. I mean, just look at that RGB crinoline! I'm in serious want.

In the meantime I'm at home, working hard on other projects. I'm currently working with Niki Collier, an amazing fibre artist and maker. We're working on a series of interactive jewellery pieces, hopefully for Dublin Maker at the end of July. We're coming to the end of our first prototype of the first piece. (The idea of finished pieces is rather a strange one to me, who's lucky to finish a single prototype. It's an interesting experience!)

Niki has been posting updates on the facebook page (warning; awkward photos of me trying not to pose). The first piece is inspired by an old Irish practice I've never actually heard of before. Apparently, some people would leave kelp out to dry, and leave it there. As the air got more humid the kelp would rehydrate, giving a visual warning that it was going to rain. Of course, carrying around kelp isn't conducive to modern living, but wouldn't a heads-up that it was about to rain be very useful?

Cue a felted neck-piece to resemble kelp, a bunch of LEDs, and a humidity sensor.

Early prototype days; some felted leaves incorporating LEDs, and a whole mess of crocodile leads

Early prototype; viva la crocodile leads!
Photo by chebe




Prototype with LEDs mostly soldered into felt tube to be worn around the neck, and other components still connected with crocodile leads

More recent prototype; LEDs mostly connected up, other components still connected with crocodile leads
Photo by chebe



I was hoping to use the Gemma for this, and I have videographic proof that it did work during the early prototypes. But something has gone wrong in the meantime. Worst scenario we'll use the Flora, but I'm hoping to figure out what the problem is.

We're using a cheap-and-cheerful humidity sensor (with built in temperature sensor). Getting it working was extremely easy, once I figured out that I needed this library, and that the samples included show you how to do everything. Really great library!

So now I'm trying to figure out the problem with the Gemma, and starting to look into the next piece. This collaboration thing is turning out to be a lot of fun.

Artek Circle

2014-May-11, Sunday 03:41 pm
chebe: (BeautyQueen)
This weekend I've been at Artek Circle. This has been an incredibly fun, and inspiring, event bringing together artists, scientists, engineers, and even philosophers! For a day and a half we have worked together on projects. It's been surprising how much has been achieved.

I kind of floated around, helping out with some debugging, busying myself with finishing up an RGB gauntlet (more details to come), and being a subject for some eeg experiments. Mostly it involved watching cat videos. For Science!

Me, holding up right arm with RGB gauntlet lit up in blue

Me, playing with RGB gauntlet
Photo by CreativeDynamix



The eeg project was Sinead's idea. A bunch of eager people gathered round, and magic happened. My involvement mostly involved me wearing one of the eeg sensors (as seen here) while watching cat videos. We were using the TrueSense Exploration Kit which is available for the really reasonable price of US$48. The cat videos was inspired by The Sympsychograph.

Want to hear the first pass of what my brain sounds like on cats? Later in the evening we retired to the hackerspace, and the recording of my brain on cats got printed on the 3D printer. This is my very own Cartesian Portrait.

A 3D print of the recording of my brain watching cat videos

My brain on cats, 3D printed
Photo by chebe



Such antics can lead to unexpected side effects however. Like having to pose for many photos. I'll keep you updated as the project evolves.

*edit*
Sinead's take on the weekend.
And I just heard my cat brain mapped onto Love Cats!
chebe: (Sewing Machine)
Ah, the Butterick 6031 slip sew-along. In one sense I'm behind. In another, I'm finished. See, I forgot for a moment that pattern company sizes are not regular sizes, and got the pattern in the wrong size. But, after measuring (myself, and the pattern) it became clear that the pattern included quite a bit of wearing ease. Which I would find unusual for a regular knit fabric, let alone the two-way-stretch knits we're actually using. So I chanced my arm and made up a toile in the largest size included.

I used some two-way-stretch knit I had laying around, which is just a bit heavier than the kit fabric. It doesn't really fray so I could skip most seam finishes. And I couldn't find any of my lace, so I made do with just some quarter-inch elastic.

Details and pictures )

The knit used is just about heavy enough to be a non-underwear fabric, and without the tell-tale lace details, well, my 90s self would like to wear this out dancing. She probably won't get her way, but I do adore this slip/lounge dress. It's so comfortable, and the different sized cups provided means I actually have something that fits properly with very little effort! I think with the actual fabric I'll narrow the side seams a bit, just to take the pressure off. But otherwise, I'm very happy. Talk about your wearable toiles!
chebe: (StepIntoTheLight)
I've had my Fitbit flex now for two months. And my usage is starting to drop off. When you first get something like this you want to try out all the features, to see what it can do. The way it's designed means you end up wearing it 24/7. There's progression (you can change your goals), and there's awards (daily and cumulative achievements). You can see graphs of how well/badly you slept. It's fun. But if there's one thing my long history of consumerism has thought me it's that novelty eventually wears off.

Unless you are actively using the device to monitor something, you realise there is little reason to wear it. If you aren't sleeping well, this can possibly help you identify reasons. If you are trying to up your fitness you can continually up your goals. But every so often it needs to be taken off. Sometimes it needs a quick wipe-down, more usually it needs charging. A time will come when you don't put it back on, and don't miss it.

In hindsight this should have been predictable. I wear my flex next to my watch. I only wear my watch when I go out. So I can check the time easily, so I'm not late meeting people, or catching my train. I use it when it has a function. When I'm at home, not doing much, why do I need a pedometer?

It's not just the flex. Usage falloff of wearables in general is about 30% in six months. 50% about 15 months. (Article; Why Wearables Aren't Working Yet.) And that seems right to me. I got beautiful new wireless headphones as a present recently. When using bluetooth they have a wonderful gesture interaction; press to play/pause, double-tap to skip forward/back, and twirl clockwise to increase volume, counter-clockwise to decrease volume. There's also a recorded voice advising you on how to pair the headphones over bluetooth, and alerting you when the battery gets low. They are very well thought-out and a joy to use. But they're just headphones, I only need them to listen to music.

The manufacturers of these really nice pieces of dedicated hardware do try to add extra value. The flex has a silent vibrating alarm. The headphones can be used to take phonecalls. But they're also lacking many features, so both need a smartphone or computer; to collect/generate and display. In one way it's creating this wonderful system, your own personal network. Defined about you, by you, for you and your needs. But it's all external and clunky.

I think the e-textile concept of melting the electronics into the fabric is the way to go. You won't put on a wrist-strap, you'll just put on your coat, or runners, or pjs, or other piece of dedicated clothing you already put on for specific activities. But that raises the interesting question of how they'll all interact with each other. Will they combine in a sort of personal-network to provide the seamless functionality of the 24/7 devices? Rather, will the concept of 24/7 monitoring need to be done away with? Or just extended into your environment as well?

But I suspect there will always be days, like sunny, lazy days by a lake, to leave gaps in the data.
chebe: (StarryNight)
If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed that I have been playing with getting the maximum number of LEDs for the minimum amount of microcontroller that I can. Here's a short summary.

Pictures! Video! Text! )

I have to thank Rob for being very patient in answering all my questions. And also to note that although I'm using the Adafruit wearables, Rob has been using the LilyPad boards (including the Tiny!) with the SewIOs quite successfully. Yay for interoperability! And finally, that they don't have to be regular LEDs, you can connect anything you could normally. I think RGB pixels, and smile.

Slip Sew-Along

2014-Mar-30, Sunday 01:11 pm
chebe: (Sewing Machine)
Gertie is running a new sew-along! Before you panic, this one should be much, much shorter than the last one. I don't have many details yet except that it's starting sometime in April, and her tag will either be Butterick 6031 or slip sew-along. I made things easy on myself by purchasing the kit and pattern directly, so all I need worry about is the fitting and sewing. Here's to more adventures in sewing!
chebe: (WalkSign)
Batteries. Batteries vex me. They are often bulky, heavy, and non-rechargeable. They run out, and/or need recharging all the time. But they're necessary in absolutely everything if you're to be free from the wall socket. And until we're free from chemical power storage we're stuck with them. So it's a good idea to be able to look after them. (This is not advice, just my own reckless adventure.)

Sometimes you'll purchase a cheap piece of electronics from the internet, only to have it show up not working. Unless it's plugged in to USB. So you open it up and find this goopy, lumpy mess. Measuring between the terminals reveals there's no current flowing, so you have to cut it out.

Distressing images of batteries below )

*sigh* Hurry up Science, I need a better solution than batteries!
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