Tag Archives: Hardware

Fuzzy hatted-Open Thread

I’ve been working on a rather silly but entertaining project for the past few weeks:

lilypad and shift register on the compass hat

It’s a hat, that’s also a compass.  There are LEDs in the brim – whichever is pointed North is the one that’s on.  I’m planning on adding a “party mode” which just lights them up in various patterns, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Did I mention that they are pink LEDs?

compass hat!

There’s also a secret buzzer underneath the hat so that the wearer can know where North is without asking someone else to tell her which light is on. The various parts:


Edit: I’ve pushed the source code to bitbucket; it’s fairly hacky, but will be evolving over the next while :)

Anyone else working on fun knitted things, wearable computing projects, or knitted electronics?

This is also an open thread, for discussion of subjects of general interest, things in older posts, and things we’ve never posted about.

Cathy Malmrose of ZaReason: Linux Entrepreneur

I recently was looking for an ethically sourced Linux laptop and came across ZaReason. CEO Cathy Malmrose‘s candid answers to my questions were the deciding factor in my decision to buy ZaReason. I saw her name in my inbox and recognized it from the Un-Scary Screwdriver piece she wrote a few months back:

Since I had been staring down a pile of excess, but still quite usable hardware, I asked my dad, “Hey, can you wait a few weeks and your granddaughter will build you a desktop that will be ideal for video editing?”

Since we GeekFeminism folk are foursquare for awesome women, FLOSS, cool hardware, and empowering girls and women of all ages with science and technology, Cathy Malmrose deserves a link roundup of her very own.

“How would you describe your customer base?” “Intelligent people.” I love being pandered to! :-)

Malmrose is also CEO of Partimus, “a nonprofit organization that provides repurposed computers running free software to students and schools who need them,” and a former schoolteacher.

On my side, I have seen inventory go unused, depreciating every day that it sits on our shelves. Laptops that are used for shows, demo models and other lightly used systems can be donated to people who could put them to good use.

Several economic and societal factors are coming together to make this an excellent time to launch the Partimus branch that can be the go-to donation center for hardware vendors who want to keep their inventory tight like we do…. The end result will be to not only donate systems to good new “adoptive” homes, but to encourage others to do the same unofficially in their own social circles.

In an interview with the Southern California Linux Expo, Malmrose talks at length about how her kids got her into FLOSS, the welcome and respect she feels in the open source community (more than in the business world), and women in STEM. A tiny excerpt:

Question: What methods do you use to encourage other women to get involved in technology?

Cathy: Talking about it in an open, friendly way, the same way I tell a friend about a great restaurant, a cool museum, a competent babysitter, or a fun science camp. My friends don’t have to try Linux, but they sure would enjoy it if they did. There is a certain fear factor involved in computing, possibly because it seems so magical, but there are two ways to approach something you don’t understand — with fear or with awe. When I talk about Open Source, I focus on easing the fear and projecting the awe.

In a profile feature at Linux.com, Malmrose explains how one specific welcoming community helped her go from novice to leader:

She also discovered another important aspect: community. It began with her first trip to the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, an organization that refurbishes older computer systems to give away to those less fortunate.

“I brought my own laptop and stayed in the background, too shy to do any good. I had 20+ years being shown the ‘no girls allowed’ sign on this particular tree fort. The owner, James Burgett, was explicitly approachable, and I liked him on sight. I knew he would cut me all the leeway I needed to integrate into his corner of the tech market.”

Burgett helped Malmrose break out of her shell. Whether it was observing in amazement the way the group could create order out of chaos from all the donations, to popping off the Windows super key to replace with a custom Tux key, Malmrose came into her own. “I found that every time I visited ACCRC, the people on duty were accepting and kind. They were always busy, always moving, and the rhythm surprised me.”

ACCRC played a vital role in the formation of ZaReason. “We saw James addressing the low end, shipping now more than 17,000 FOSS systems. We like the newest, fastest hardware, and we saw few reasonably priced options for the high end.”

She also writes about women in FLOSS in her article “An International Look at Women in Open Source” from the Women in Open Source issue of the Open Source Business Resource.

Malmrose has video interviews up explaining how her family moved to Linux and “how her small company came to be number 3 in the sales of computers running GNU-Linux”.

I’m writing this on my new ZaReason Hoverboard, which arrived running Ubuntu Linux. (It arrived with some bad memory, I did a memtest at their advice and then shipped it back, and I got it back fixed under warranty.) Thanks for your entrepreneurship and your activism, Cathy Malmrose!

Who are your favorite female executives in tech? Tell us in the comments.

Open hardware, open thread

I was interviewed about open source hardware on Amber Mac‘s WebNation last week, and wanted to share the video.  Sadly I can’t embed it, but here it is:


I’d love to hear what kinda of awesome hardware projects other folks are working on in the comments here… or as with other open threads, anything else that’s on your mind.

Jie Qi loves to make things

Jie Qi is majoring in mechanical engineering at Columbia University, and as her website says, she loves to make things.

Now, sometimes adding electronics to classic kids toys just makes them obnoxious, but this popup book, done with Dr. Leah Buechley as part of the High-Low Tech group in the MIT Media Lab, is an amazing example of how electronics can enhance in a beautiful way:

Today and Tomorrow also featured some beautiful paper/electronic flowers she made, that move and open much like real flowers would.

Paper flowers blooming from Jie Qi on Vimeo.

I love how hardware hacking can be so beautiful. I’ll bet that’s not the first thing some people think of when they think of neat hardware projects, but I’ve seen a lot of really lovely things out there. Feel free to show off your own stuff in the comments: complete, incomplete, or even not quite started.

I’ve got 64K memory, how about you?

Barcelona‘s song “C-64” is a perfect love song to teenage computing in the 80s. I had such a crush on my Commodore!

I’ve got 64k memory
I’ve got cartridge boards on ebony
I’ve got power cords strung out the door
Think I’ll set up my bulletin board
Got a modem when I turned thirteen
But my dad doesn’t know what telephony means
Only 1200 baud
Never leave my room
My skins turning pale
Knocks on the door
Please don’t disturb me I’m here with my C-64

You can hear the first 30 seconds of C-64 on Last.fm but it doesn’t seem to be on sale anywhere. Here’s a hilarious, horrible commercial instead. Apparently Commodore nerds have their own gang sign?!

I would sit on the floor writing long horrible BASIC programs to make “sprites” move around and other sprites shoot them.

My first computer encounter was in a children’s museum in Boston with a room-sized vacuum tube affair with a black and white screen that could play tic-tac-toe. I was sure someone was pulling my leg and there was a person in there, like the illustrations of chess-playing automaton hoaxes. Later in a kids’ programming class on Saturdays I cried along with every other kid when our punch cards didn’t work. Then onward to stolen moments with my dad’s work computer, with a neighbor’s Kaypro “portable” and another neighbor’s Apple II. Mostly I was writing programs that wrote poetry and trying to understand arrays of arrays of arrays, grammar, and how to make random sentences that made sense. Then for months I diagrammed out how to structure a program that could play solitaire – a program I never managed to write. With no Internet, and no books, I had only what I could pick up from random people or figure out for myself. The Commodore 64 though, had books and sound and color, so along with the random poetry generators, I made 7 layers of sprites sail around the screen and learned a lot about waveforms. For games, mostly I played Zork and every other interactive fiction game I could get my hands on.

When my parents bought me the C-64, it was a big deal, a subject of debate and worry to spend all that money but also a lot of speeches about How Things were Different Now because of Feminism; I would have Opportunities that maybe women before me didn’t have. So I had the vague sense that the computer was important beyond what I could do with it; I had to live up to it.

All these computers were the closest thing possible to an alien or a robot. They were like a dream come true, science fiction made real, mysterious stories of UFOs or spontaneous combustion or Atlantis, that would obey my commands. I loved computers passionately!

Questions for the geeky women out there,

And I don’t mean this as any sort of chest-beating old-school-boasty geekier-than-thou thing where whoever touched a PDP-6 wins, but sincerely to explore experiences and emotions and our bonds with machines,

What was your first encounter with computers? What did you first do with them? Were you playing games? Doing Internet stuff? Bulletin boards? Art? Chatting? What did your earliest computer encounters mean to you? And what computer did you first own? How did you feel about your TRS-80, ZX Spectrum, C-64, or whatever came before or after that?