Category: Engineering

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.


Mindstorms Autofabrik

“Luckily, Jim discovered Lego before the APD really got out of hand.”

Yes, I posted it under Engineering. Where would you post it!?

Cool HQ

Polish radio station. What a cool place to work.

Polish Radio Station

My Enormous Erection

Bet that got your attention. The 24m CIX mast was assembled on site last week, and installed in the courtyard inside our services building yesterday.

EDIT: I’ll post a photo of my own tomorrow.

I think I spy our genset up there too, but I could be wrong about that as the infrastructure for it wasn’t in place the last time I visited. (EDIT: That is the genset, and the chillers are on the roof too!)

At this point the major infrastructural action items remaining are:

  • install UPS system
  • install fire suppression bottles
  • install chillers

We still have a lot of smaller jobs to do though, plus the final build out of the network and moving servers from the computer room to the main data floor.

Gimme a bell if you’re interested in the networking stuff, we’re not happy with the offerings we’ve received so far. Talk about overthinking it! (And overpricing it.)

Dual Network Handsets

Indian handset maker Spice Mobile has introduced two new mobiles, both of which can handle dual connections: GSM + CDMA for the D-88, and GSM + GSM for the D-80. It’s not clear if they take two SIMs or handle the second virtually, or even if it’s just an extension of the clunky dual-SIM addons you’ve been able to get for years, but it’s a major step forward either way simply because it comes as part of the package. It’s just a pity they decided to rip off or licence already dated Moto designs and not come up with a new design to go with it.

Spice Mobiles

Of course Nokia, Motorola or any of the other handset makers could have done this years ago, but they like to pick and choose where they innovate, and where they help the networks retain their cosy little cartels.

Did you know?

That the optics in lighthouses continue to rotate during the day because if they were allowed to settle, they’d act like a magnifying glass and set fire to something? I didn’t, although I kicked myself when I found out!

Thanks to the excellent guide at Hook Head for this little nugget.

Alarm Rings

I’m not sure this’d wake my mot* from the depths, but dammit if it’s not a great idea for Normal People [TM].

Alarm Rings

* I don’t want to say ‘partner’, because, you know, I’m not a langer.

FIC/OpenMoko Neo v1 July 9, v2 October

I’ve been watching this phone like a hawk for some time, because it’s open standards across the board; i.e. both the software and hardware are – generally speaking – open.

This might not solve the horrendous problems mobile power users have to deal with overnight – proprietary connectors, proprietary synchronisation, etc – but in time it might just provoke the Symbians and the Nokias of this world to pull their heads out of their asses and realise that, really, proprietary is a dirty word; and that there’s plenty of money to be made out of compatibility. And, you know, happy customers.

There was always a slight worry that this might be another Optimus Maximus, but it looks now like that might not be the case, as the developers tell us that 400 first generation handsets are ready to ship in China, and another 600 are on the way. The price seems a bit cheeky at $300, and we don’t have much of a spec to go on, but remember this is a SIM-free Linux-based phone. The possibilities are endless.

That’s the first generation phone though, the next generation is slated for October and that currently has a price tag of €450. Ok, it’ll have 802.11b/g WiFi and upgraded hardware, but there’s no mention of a 3G radio – the 1st gen is 2.5G – and again, we still don’t know what the final OS will look like. I’m not sure I’m going to want to lash out that kind of money, after just spending a hefty whack of dosh on a Treo 680.

Hopefully they’ll spot this nasty hole in their spec before the 2nd gen handset is finalised, and I’ll be watching OpenMoko’s YouTube channel for a half-decent video of the handset in the meantime. Hopefully it’ll be pornographic enough for me to be naughty and actually buy one. And hopefully, fingers crossed, it won’t be another Sharp Zaurus.


Glastonbury Was Shit

It’s rained every year I’ve been there, including the torrential rain and thunderstorms two years ago, but it was just too much this year. There were hours when it didn’t rain, in fact we had a full half day when it was really quite nice; but the mud had zero chance to harden so even when the weather wasn’t too bad, it was a major slog getting anywhere.

On top of that we plonked our tent on top of what became a puddle and while that shouldn’t have bee a problem, the youngfella didn’t take care of it like he was told, so we ended up getting a big soggy. Luckily Sista brought a spare, but even that leaked a little bit so we weren’t madly miffed when Stena texted to say that the Express was cancelled and could we make our way to Fishguard, pronto.

And let’s be honest, the line-up wasn’t great either. The Killers were good but way, way too quiet; and although we thought that was the wind, apparently it wasn’t, they really were quiet for some reason. The Manics were good fun, but I spent a good half an hour of it trudging through mud trying to get to a toilet. Shirley Bassey was fun, as were the Marley Brothers, but it wasn’t… Glastonbury, you know?

So no Glastonbury for me next year, I’m taking a fallow year to see if Sista’s theory that I’m a jinx is true. If it’s not, I’ll go back the year after. With a camper. It’s a cop-out, but I get to bring as many clothes as I want. And it’s dry.

We saw lots of interesting things over the weekend – notably the Browne-Clayton Column, which so intrigued us we had to go back to Wexford to figure out – but the things we saw most of were Nolan Transport lorries. We knew we were going the right way on the road to Rosslare because there they were; ditto Fishguard on the way back.

You know the ones: white tractor with Movin’ On on the sunscreen, red trailer with in massive letters on the curtain. You thought you were seeing the same one over and over again, right? No. See the key facts on their website: 420 tractors, 900 trailers. They’re no Eddie Stobart, but by god they’re not far off.

Well done to the lads and lasses in Nolans for building such and impressive fleet!