[Noisebridge-announce] Signal To Noise 2011-01-31 #2

Noiserat noiserat at noisebridge.net
Mon Jan 31 19:44:58 PST 2011

   .-'`-.     Signal To Noise V11.02-rc8-gold-alpha
   z    !/|
   z    !\|   the international journal
   `-'`-      of the noisebridge hackerspace

In this issue:

sub/unsub:      http://nburl.net/nbannounce
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>>> NEWS

         Laser cutters are excellent tools for cutting all sorts of
         things: metal, plastic, textiles, laptop tattoos, eggplants,
         other hackerspaces down to size, children out of your will,
         and of course, the precision parts necessary to build your
         "lasercutter I might actually be able to afford" hardware
         design. Well, let it be known that, thanks to the donations
         of TAYLOR, SHANNON, and a cast of dozens, Noisebridge will
         shortly have a Laser ... well, we would rather it be known
         as a Laser Engraver, because that's what it is. A Full
         Spectrum 40 Watt Super Deluxe Laser Engraver, mind: it can
         cut all sorts of soft things like plastics, ham and cheese,
         and carve onto metals. It's not here yet, but you'll be know
         when it arrives from the immediate squeals of excitement,
         followed by the sounds of the space burning down to the ground:

         *Super* Deluxe, none of parallel port tat:

         We'd flaunt our new engraver as a hackerspace badge of
         honor, but we already have a badge of honor, made by COREY
         with the BOXSHOP'S fine Thermadyne Cutmaster A-120
         plasma cutter. A plasma cutter is an excellent tool for
         cutting steel, other metals, Great Seals of Noisebridge, and
         large piles of uppity laser cutters who think they're so sharp:

         Best not even to ask about what their planishing hammer can do:

         KQED came and filmed Noisebridge, no doubt for their own
         sinister mass-media purposes, but the five minute clip they
         crafted is actually a fine summary of what we are
         and where we got the dumb idea in the first place. Good
         for if you're busy or suddenly get scared of normal people
         asking too many questions:

         Or if you just want to hold up a picture, this is a lovely one:



         The WOBBLY DRILL SAW AND RADIAL SAW BENCH are no longer,
         thanks to MIKE KAN, JIM, and JOHN M who attached them to the
         wall, and estimate "~1000x" more stability. They are now
         only wobbly in the strictest anarcho-syndicalist sense.

         One way to build room-temperature semi-conductors is to
         lower the temperature of the room to near absolute zero,
         something that Noisebridge experiments with every winter.
         RACHEL L. H. and the SECOND SATURDAY GANG ruined this scheme
         by putting plastic over the skylights: now we can only work
         on slightly clement fusion instead.

         COUCH-LIKE MOVEMENT DETECTED: said do-a-crats also
         disappeared the couches in the heart of the space, replacing
         them with puritanical work benches. Many of the couches have
         migrated to Church (the far classroom). Perfect for those
         who like to do their learning graeco-roman-style.

         Join Jim every TUESDAYS MID-DAY for lighter chores, or
         for those times when only crowds of angry hackers wielding
         crowbars and anvils will do it, come to Second Saturday:


         SETH SCHOEN, Noisebridge's Latin secretary (like John
         Milton!) was a sizeable chunk of Codex Alimentarius, the
         team that won this year's 31st MIT MYSTERY HUNT. That means
         that not only is he good at solving puzzles, he now has to
         get good at making them, because whoever wins is cursed to
         design the challenges for next year:

         TRAVIS has boiled down his many CPU cycles working on
         practical computer SECURITY CONCEPTS into 246 pages of free
         living, breathing PDF. Snag it for your ebook reader, mull
         on his principles and sympathize with the LaTeX hate:

         Talking of books, Al's Amazon five-star book, INVENT YOUR OWN
         COMPUTER GAMES WITH PYTHON continues to be awesome. It's
         free online, and he's still updating it with material on his
         blog. If you have someone you want to drag into the cult of
         programming, this is a great start:

         Al's GORILLA.PY avoids look-and-feel suit with Gates' DONKEY.BAS:

         But it's not all scribble, scribble, scribble. NICK, iPhone
         dev clubmaster, bringer of the vending machine, and NB's own
         Foursquare mayor has smuggled an iPhone app past the
         all-seeing eyes of Steve Jobs. It's a free, Uzu-ish piece of
         finger-candy that effectively hypnotize a small child or
         calm someone on bad drugs. Probably not a good idea to do
         both simultaneously, despite its multi-touch features:

         Plus PATRICK made a fine fine Noisebridge Android app:


All the usual suspects at https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Category:Events plus:

> Fun-A-Day
Sunday February 6th, 2011, 2pm

The Art Night Collective will be presenting a showcase of people who
did something once-a-day all through January. If you want to help
them plan the show they will be meeting at Noisebridge on Thursday
February 3rd at 7ish (though presumably only this once, rather than
repeating this plan for the next thirty years).

When hackers get caught in their own for(;;) loops:

Okay, so you missed fun-a-day. But obviously, that idea repeats too:

> Audio Circuit Hacking
Mondays, 7PM

Mondays are usually the most jumping-est evenings at Noisebridge, as
that's when people meet to solder and circuit hack at Circuit Hacking
Monday. A new scion of the main group is Jim's audio circuit-hacking,
which is already producing moody and moogy circuit bending. Make some
noise and just turn up, or email Jim for more details:

Mitch, Miloh and Josh still representing with:

> Wiki Talk
Tuesday, February 1, 6PM

DoYou LikeWikis? Then ComeTo the WikiMeetup, where folks from local
wiki communities, including Wikimedia and Socialtext, will be
gathering to share notes and decompress after this year's
RecentChangesCamp in Canberra. Contact Pete for more details:

Or if you can't make it that day, just edit the date here:

> Soma Lunches
Thursdays, lunchtime

Tragically, many Noisebridgers are kidnapped by their corporate
masters and held captive downtown for many hours in awful conditions.
They are allowed only a few minutes a day to feel the sun on their
face and stuff smoked trout and fennel into their gobs. Do you share
their plight? Perhaps you can join your fellow Noisebridgers, and
work on building a Soma escape tunnel to Delores.

> Vegan Food Hackers
Every fourth Tuesday, 6PM

Still hungry? Tastebridge's splinter vegan faction made delicious
vegan Guiness cake last week, and THEY WILL RETURN:

For lighter snacks:

> Ruby Class
Tuesday, 7pm - 9pm

Fresh from their conquest of mount Git, the Ruby Tuesday group now
plunges into the arctic wastes of databases, and how to manage them
while using everyone's favourite domain-unspecific-language.

>> Like to appear here? Then add your even to Noisebridge's wiki
>> and mail noiserat at noisebridge.net with plenty of time.


         The board got elected. Look, cool condorcet voting systems!

         CHANDRA, RACHEL H, and JACK are new members of Noisebridge.
         If you'd like to be a member too, write your name on the
         binder on top of the shrine, get two sponsors, wait four
         weeks, then come to a Tuesday meeting.

         If that sounds incredibly arcane and yet humdrum, remember
         you don't need to be a member to use Noisebridge (membership
         just gives you the rarely-used right to block the consensus
         process we use to make dull decisions).  If you're not a
         member, but do use Noisebridge, consider donating: Just
         $SOME_MONEY a month keeps us from going wobbly (and not in
         the anarcho-syndicalist sense this time):

         ... or lots of other ways:


Being the best of Noisebridge's other info-flumes:

Building step-on buttons (like in Dance Dance Revolution):

Unbricking a Linksys router:

The simplest possible LED driver (and hot air vs. soldering irons):

How do I get MIDI messages from an Arduino into a program like Traktor?

Hacking a DKU-5 into a $1 USB->serial interface:


He built the Tron suit in last month's S2N, and constructed
Noisebridge's glowing donation box. But it was SEAN P CUSACK's
DISTILLATION CLASS that was the talk of Noisebridge this month.
We asked him to boil it all down for us.

> The first record I found in a Noisebridge context is you taking
over a bar last Summer, and donating the proceeds to the space. How
did that happen?

I'd been using Noisebridge a lot. I'd learned to solder, and how to
use microcontrollers here. I also like to drink *a lot*, and because
I hang out in bars a great deal, I heard that Elixir was doing a
guest bartender slot. Their only stipulation was tips go to a
non-profit. And I thought, well I know a sweet charity...

> You have leet bartending skills?

Oh no. I'm a *hobbyist* bartender. I'd never run a real bar. I was
all "ok, I know how to make a Martinez", and the guy running Elixie
was like "Rum and coke, vodka and soda: anything weirder, tell 'em to
fuck off." And he was totally right. Too many people.

> So this bar-hopping habit. Is this tied in some tangential way to
the Distillation class you run at NB?

Indeed, because I'm an alcoholic *and* a chemist. I've spent a ton of
time in the lab optimising things like distillation. And as I have
the knowledge and the glassware, I eventually thought, well let's
build a still and be done with it. 

I've been distilling at home for a year now, but I really wanted to
bring it to Noisebridge, because there's a lot of motivation problems
trying to distill by yourself. The initial fermentation takes time.
When it's distilling you can't leave it for eight hours...

> There's a reason why people only do this up mountains?

Yes. And of course there's some legal problems...

> Yes, about that: isn't this totally illegal?

It is not illegal to own or operate a still. You do need a permit. To
run a still to make ethanol and sell it without a fancy
manufacturer's license is certainly illegal. The government says this
is for safety reasons, but then again they also don't get tax money
from unlicensed ethanol stills. I think they basically only get
worried when you're selling lots of alcoholic (ie ethanol) product.

> Can you legally distill stuff that isn't ethanol?

Sure, but even if you're distilling essential oils, or biodiesel or
whatever, you still need a $50 still permit.

> How much does a beginner's still cost apart from that?

A small still will set you back $300-$400, but if you can weld, you
can make one for $50-$100.

Distilling has such a bad stigma, and there's no information out
there. but it's not difficult. It's like baking. There's a proper way
to bake, and if you know it, you can make your own cakes, and can
make variations. If you know the basics of distilling, and can
operate a still, you can separate liquids based on a boiling point,
and that means you can do so much. You could distill that Sprite
you're drinking, and explore it. But nobody knows this, because
there's no information around.

> Is there a distilling hacking community?

Well, it's legal in New Zealand, so there's a big online New Zealand
home-distilling community. And if you're into ethanol, there's a book
called The Home Distiller's Handbook by Ola Norrman. It's very
simple, very down-to-earth, how to make your first wash, how to run
your still your first time. Moonshiner's basics.

I should add that I'm in the process of moving my still to
Noisebridge, so if there isn't one in San Francisco, there is now!
I'm incredibly excited to see what people do with a new fancy still
in the space. 

> And *does* it make you blind?

Kind of, but you have to do it really *really* wrong. Methanol will
make you blind, and methanol will come off your distillation before
ethanol, but it smells so bad, there's no reason why you'd ever
drink it.

> How long does it all take?

When I gave the class, we started a liter and a half, and got out
200mls, and that took an hour on a very small still. The bigger the
still, the slower the process is, because there's a correspondingly
longer heat up and cool down time.

> Do you think it's one of those domains where there's always
something to learn?

Absolutely. Initially, I thought it was going to be super-simple,
because, you know, I've taken course,  I know all the science. But
like anything practical, it turns out to be far more of an art.
There's always new stuff to find out. I think my dream would be to
open a small distillery, so that anyone could run small experimental

> How do you make the time and money for all of your projects?

The way it works is that I make big signs for people, like for
Lafitte on Embarcadero. Their one rolls around and lights up, it's
pretty cool. Making signs like that bring in enough money to fund my
other projects, so my normal salary can go straight to buying drinks
in bars. I always have more projects than time.

The Home Distiller's Handbook is a $5 ebook from:

Hacker central for distilling, straight outta New Zealand:

The basics of essential oils:

Mr Sean's thoughts and other fine projects:

Noisebridge is San Francisco's non-profit hackerspace, open to anyone
wishing to explore the creative uses of technology. Join us at:

            2169 Mission St, San Francisco, California

Our One Minute Preamble: http://nburl.net/preamble
Our Vision:              http://nburl.net/vision

  #2 // 2011-01-31 // cc-by-sa // (un)sub http://nburl.net/nbannounce
Drive 'em cowboy: http://coffeeghost.net/filedump/hdd_runner.mp4

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