Education

TechShop: Geek Heaven

What an absolutely brilliant idea.

Guy Kawasaki: Jim Newton founded TechShop in the summer of 2006 because he needed a world-class workshop so he could work on his projects and inventions. After having access to full machine shops at both the College of San Mateo when he taught a BattleBots class and at the studio set of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters show when he was the science advisor, he found himself without a place to work on his projects after these positions. He was surprised to find that there were not any places like TechShop already, so he decided that he would open one himself.

TechShop provides its members with a huge variety of tools, machines, and equipment in a 15,000 square-foot workshop environment. The equipment at TechShop is not likely to appear in the hobbyist’s home workshop. The range of tools and equipment covers machining, sheet metal, welding, casting, laser cutters, rapid prototyping, CAD, CNC equipment, electronics, sewing, automotive, plastics, composites, and lots more.

Membership is modeled after a fitness center, and several levels of membership are available. There are currently approximately 350 monthly, yearly, corporate, and lifetime members. The facility can handle around fifty members at a time, so TechShop have set the membership cap at 500 members so the shop and workspace does not get over-crowded. There are only about 150 membership slots available until membership is full. The hours of operation for TechShop are currently 9 AM to midnight, 7 days a week. Jim tells me that they plan to open 24×7 when they reach the membership cap of 500 in the next month or two.

There are shared bins full of bits and bobs from your shed and everyone else’s shed, much akin to the wall of (useful!) crap Jamie Hyneman is famous for. The tool racks grow when people bring in their own, and appear not to shrink as you’d expect. There’s a 3D printer, a powder coater, a laser cutter, punches, lathes, sandblasters, test benches, plasma cutters, everything the uber nerd or plain old home hobbyist could need. And they run open classes, for thirty bucks and hour — a good price from both standpoints imo.

This should be franchised, all over the world. I want one in Cork. All you need to do to make is perfect for me is add a few ramps and a few other bits of automotive equipment, so I can pretend I’m Chip Foose. I’d have to be dragged out of the place kicking and screaming, like a child being extracted from a playground.

Want, WANT, WANT!

“Hey, check this out!”

Bruce Schneier notes a recent study on phishing that found that over 70% of people will click on a link if it looks like it’s coming from someone they know, and jokes about men being suckers for the ladies, what with them being 15% more likely to click if the email comes from the fairer sex. (Although I should also note that, in general, women were 10% more likely to click than men. :)

I think an interesting addition to this research would be an analysis of how the baton is passed between people, and how often it does laps. In this research the names and email addresses probably came from a control set, however in reality phishers get them from address books stolen by a trojans on compromised computers.

Obviously the stolen address book must come from a common contact if both names are in it, but the ruse will be much more successful if the source or target is the owner of the address book, and the opposite number someone in it. And around we go. So what we have here is actually a Six Degrees Of Separation Möbius Strip Of Stupidity.

Another study Bruce notes only serves to highlight the naïveté of modern man. Although the response rate isn’t enumerated, a professor at Indiana University has found that people are willing to respond to fraudlent emails if the attacker identifies the first four digits of their credit card number, instead of the usual last four.

You all know why they use the last four, right? If you don’t and the first four digits of your card are 4539, this is Mmbaza from Bank of Ireland and I’d like to talk to you about a trust account in the name of Mrs. Charles J. Haughey and a transaction which will fall in your favour to the tune of 10% of Thirty Million Euros.

HTML updates at last!

Although I can understand why the W3C went the XHTML route several years ago, I think it was a distraction from the beautiful simplicity of basic HTML, which essentially made the web what it is today. If it wasn’t for <B> and <I> and their ilk – yes, even <BLINK> – people like me wouldn’t have been interested in playing with HTML, creating the silly little websites we did, and in time moving onto to new toys like Javascript and Perl.

It was those toys – I’m sure the likes of Justin would crucify me for calling Perl a toy, but that’s what it was for me at the outset – that led people like Rasmus Lerdorf to create new toys like PHP, and XMLHttpRequest, and Ruby on Rails. And it was those toys that led to the likes of Digg, and Flickr, and YouTube, and thousands of other sites that you use every day. They’re not basic HTML by any stretch of the imagination, but their foundations are.

Now it looks like we’re going back to our roots, with HTML 5. New elements will be added to the spec, simple and easy-to-understand elements like header and footer, aside and figure, audio and video, details and datagrid. Guess their purposes, you’ll probably be right or not far off.

Hopefully the new generation of web addicts will embrace HTML 5 like we embraced it’s forerunners, breaking away from walled gardens like Facebook and MySpace and building their online presences in their own space, linked together with open standards like SIOC and it’s cousins. It’s not hard. If I can do it…

Irish Kiddyprinting

ENN says that the Reg says that the Sunday Times says that… says that… what? Where? Who said what? I’ll try that again…

The upshot of this story is that the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has come out against the use of biometrics in Irish schools. TBH I have to wonder how Mark Ballard got that from the commentary on the Commissioner’s website – which could have been written by a Fianna Fail PR hack – but that’s not really what caught my eye anyway, it’s this bit:

“a vast majority of parents had no qualms about the scheme after schools assured them it would only be used to track pupil attendance and that data would not used in criminal investigations or otherwise shared.”

Sure they won’t, until it’s something important like a murder investigation, and sure since we’ve done it once now sure we can use it for this stabbing too, and sure and since it was used for the stabbing we should use it for when that fella gave yerman a dig too, and sure now we’re using it all of the time, sure and begorrah we might as well make it a national database.

Are people really that stupid that they can’t see the long term consequences of programmes like this? Can they not see past the next corner? Or is that a stupid question? Seriously folks, don’t expose your children to this. It’s a slippery slope, and Irish bureacrats and politicos have very bad shoes.

PS. The Reg deserves credit for the headline, not me; see their URL. Bizarre they didn’t use it instead of the shite they used in the end. Did it sound too much like kiddyfiddling or summat?)

Trinity switches to Gmail

A college that can’t manage their own email? Next you’ll be telling me about a college that can’t develop their own website!

ENN: Trinity College, Dublin has become the first European university to adopt Google’s Gmail application as its standard e-mail system. The college’s 15,000 students will change over to the system in October, and will retain their @tcd.ie e-mail suffix on the Google system for life. Welcoming the announcement, Google’s European sales and operations director John Herlihy said: “We are very excited to be partnering with an august and progressive college such as Trinity on this project. Their vision of how technology can enhance student life and build a long term relationship with college alumni is shared by Google”.

EDIT: Peter asked me to point out that UCC does manage their own website. In fairness though, I never suggested they didn’t — development is about design and implementation, and configuring a third-party CMS is hardly implementation. If configuration of the CMS takes up more than half the work, why bother with it in the first place?

Peter also remarks that UCC doesn’t employ any full-time designers of it’s own, but I’d bet that out of the thousands of students in UCC, there are more than a few that would produce far better than the frankly quite drab end-result. They’d appreciate the money a hell of a lot more too, no doubt a ridiculous amount?