Q: What has four wheels and fifteen computers?
A: Your car!
For years, I’ve described hackers as “greasemonkeys with cleaner fingernails”. The eagerness to dive into a complex system, the urge to squeeze more performance out of one’s daily-driver, the itch to tinker with something that already “works just fine”. Sound familiar?
As the computer industry and the auto industry continue to overlap, we find ourselves in an interesting spot: Cars are increasingly “street-legal cellphones”, with more and more of their functionality controlled by software, connected through data networks, and accessible to anyone with the right tools and know-how.
Tools and know-how are more powerful when they’re shared, and that’s where i3 Detroit comes in! From logic analyzers to CANbus interfaces, our members and guest community enjoy access to a growing complement of car-hacking tools. But people are the other half of the equation, so Friday’s meetup has two main goals:
1. To connect interested individuals, both within and outside i3′s membership.
2. To familiarize everyone with the tools available and projects afoot, including (tentatively) a demonstration of the OpenXC Platform.
This is the first in a recurring series of car-hacking meetups, which happen monthly on the fourth Friday at i3 Detroit. Come play.
When I first came into i3Detroit, I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought in a million years that I would be doing the things that I do when I spend time at the space. Clearly I was the odd “man” out. I was surrounded with individuals versed in things I had never even dreamed of; things I never thought i could comprehend and understand. I took a very basic electronics class, and was fascinated that i actually could understand and retain the information. It blew me away that an individual would take the time to teach me something I knew nothing about; it blew me away that an individual had the patience to teach me things I had never even heard of. I came to find that i3Detroit was full of people like this; sharing ideas an knowledge, and having a genuine want to teach you mindset. I quickly found a home where I was accepted, even though I didn’t quite “fit the mold”.
For Valentine’s day this year, I created my very first circuit board. I found the idea here while I was searching for “heart shape circuit board” images on Google I had planned on doing something more in my realm of knowledge. I was going to create circuit board flowers out of e-waste that can always be found floating in our graveyard.
The concept seemed simple; a circuit board that blinks a few LED’s in some pretty neat patterns.
I quickly found the process to be much more complicated than I had anticipated; but in this process, I learned how to solder, and got a crash course in how to use our PCB Mill. I connected with fellow members, and spent some fun late nights at the space. I felt at home. I felt smart. I felt awesome. (granted two of the LED’s need some tweaking, but let’s not get down on that.)
When I hit that switch for the first time, I was reminded of how passionate I was about this place, and the people in it. This is my home, and these people are my family. This place makes my Heart Blink.
Below is the video of my reaction. <3
One of the central principles of hackerspaces/makerspaces is to make it easier for each other to accomplish things by sharing resources and ideas. It should therefore come as no surprise that, as a relatively old and well-established space, we get a steady stream of queries from founders of new spaces, asking for advice, and that we freely share the lessons we’ve learned.
Apparently that’s knowledge worth sharing more broadly, because MAKE: Magazine and Artisan’s Asylum put together an event to do just that! It’s taking place this weekend, and i3′s past president Matt Oehrlein was invited to contribute our perspective.
Matt joins roughly 180 other participants, including leaders of established spaces, founders of new efforts, and experts in related fields such as government and insurance. We look forward to further collaboration with the broader community!
As part of revamping i3′s front-door wiring, I needed to distribute several circuits of overcurrent-protected DC power. First, I grabbed an old bakelite fuse-block:
(Side note: Are you as sick as I am of trying to read the markings on a blown glass fuse? A little Sharpie solves that!)
This left two unsolved problems, though: Gathering all the return leads, and replacing fuses if I shorted something while wiring. I decided to make a little power distribution block, instead:
The yellow discs are a 900mA Polyfuse and two 2.5A Polyfuses. The LEDs (and 1k resistors) don’t see voltage until the associated Polyfuse “trips”, so they indicate a faulted circuit. That allows me to commit stupidity while wiring things up, know about it, and not spend a glass fuse each time. It was also trivial to add extra screw terminals and a return bus, solving the other problem.
The next trick was mounting the thing without shorting out the traces on the bottom. It turned out to be easiest just to stand off a second piece of perfboard below it. These boards are so cheap ($0.39 ea?) it wasn’t worthwhile to make a dummy panel out of some other material.
Then a little Dual-Lock for mounting, and it’s done…
Saturday’s WinterLAN gaming party was a success by any measure. Game-wise, practically everything was represented — I think we had 7 or 8 vintage and modern consoles running simultaneously, plus dozens of PCs on the network, and tabletop games galore. People-wise, there were 40-plus people in the space most of the night, with the last game of Artemis finally wrapping up around 5am.
Thanks to everyone who made the party what it was, from the members who organized it, to the guests just making it to the space for the first time. By the way, there’s no need to wait for next year’s WinterLAN before coming back — there’s a regular tabletop gaming night on the calendar, and if hacking/making is more your style, we do that every night of the week! Just look for that little box in the upper right to say “open for guests”, and you’re invited, just like that.
phone: (248) 906-8473
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