Monday, December 01, 2014

All Wheel Drive Does Not Make You Safer

Every so often I read a blog post that's really relevent our day to day life.  This is one of those.  A friend of mine, who writes an outstanding blog on living a simpler life,wrote up a great post on exactly why AWD just isn't worth it.  Worth a read.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Copyright and software

Every so often I run across an article that really makes me rethink a position I may have had for a long time.  This blog posting from Foss Patents had that effect on me this morning.

In Oracle case, Google has gone from fighting API copyright to attacking all software copyright

I have to wonder on this one.  I'm not sure the author is thinking clearly about the intent of what Google is doing re: copyright.

Personally, I think software copyrights have been severely abused over the last couple of decades, and what Google is doing now is trying to put copyright back to where it should be:  A tool to protect written works, not software products.

I'd also go on to say:  Opensource.  Yea... opensource.  Eventually, I would hope, everything will become opensource and companies will compete on capabilities and not the size of their legal teams.  This applies to hardware as well as software.

And something to consider:  The (now) largest economy in the world.

China's lack of belief in copyrights and patents (I like to judge based on actions, not words) will eventually overtake the western worlds approach to ownership.

When the guy who owns all the factories doesn't give a s**t about your patent, AND owns the largest marketplace and middle class in the world.. well, whistle in the wind all you like kiddos... you don't get to keep your toys in a world like that.  I'm not saying this is right; I am saying, it's happening right now and there's no way to stop it.

Elon Musk and Tesla got it right:  Get a patent, but don't use it as a blunt instrument to kill your perceived enemies.  Use it as a way to protect the idea from being locked up by someone else by giving it away to everyone.

Naive?  Maybe.  Better for all businesses in the long term?  Absolutely

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Hackerspaces and innovators

I really should post here more often. :)

I've been having quite a bit of fun founding and getting a hackerspace off the ground.  We now have a better understanding why TinkerMill’s grown so fast in the last 6 months*.

Local Newspaper Story in the Longmont Time Call.

Apparently, a Hackerspace/Makerspace is something our town’s needed for awhile.  :)

Average number of Patents per 10,000 people in the USA:   4

Average number of Patents per 10,000 people in Longmont:  45

You read that right, 45 vs. 4.  More than an order of magnitude more than the rest of the country.

*50+ members, 3000SF space with lots of great tools and activities, more at:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

drive-a-bout update- Wyoming drive through and Billings, MT landing

I landed in Billings, MT. last night.  Dark and cold.

The drive through Wyoming was desolate.  That is one EMPTY state.  But the landscape was amazing.  From almost alien to wide open and desolate to rocky mountain beauty.  This is the first time I've gone past Cheyenne (to the North) and it's all true:  It's the backdrop of an old Hollywood western, for hour after hour at 75mph.  The beauty (and sense of being alone) is extreme and, in many places, the wind never stops (I've read Wyoming has one of the highest per capita suicide rates in the nation, largely due to the non stop wind).  I can see why some of the most rugged and self sufficient folks might want to choose Wyoming as home.  If you live here, and you want to be, you're very much alone.

Today:  Not sure if I'll head North, again, or swing West.  Not feeling the draw to the East today.  I may seek out local hackerspaces as I go.  We'll see.

Drive-a-bouts (the Amercian version of a Walk-a-bout)

I'm off on another drive-a-bout.

I started doing these about 20ish years ago.

Just get into a (reasonably well stocked up) car and go.  No direction, no destination, no plan, no timeline.

The original idea came from the Australian concept of a walk-a-bout.  Only, being a lazy American, I didn't do it on foot, I did it by car.

So off on another I go.  It's a been a few years, but I'm due.

Oddly, this isn't 'something a retired person' does (as one of my younger coharts suggested).  It's really something everyone should do, the younger the better.

Outfit your car with just enough sleeping gear to spend the night in it if you need to.  If it's summer, bring camping gear.  Also have enough cash to rent a hotel in any city you happen to land in (I've ended up in NYC, New Orleans, LA, Chicago, a vast array of smaller cities and towns and villages and a few totally out of the way trailer parks and hidden enclaves).

You'd be amazed what you find.  If you take your time, and talk to people as you go, strike up conversations, ask them what's interesting around these parts, let them show you if they're so inclined, you'd find there's a magical quality to both the people in this country, and the land we all live in and often take for granted.

I've been all over the world.  I've seen some truly beautiful places, but, there's still something particularly striking and alluring to me about America, my own country.  It's people, it's land and resources, it's, is still astounding.

Everyone should take a few days, or weeks, and just wander around it, at least once in their lives.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Simple Stuff...

Really simple stuff, actually.  Yea.. we've all heard it.  We also forget and the occasional reminder doesn't hurt one little bit.

Some excellent advice on just living from Brad Feld regarding not falling into a depression (and what to do about it):

"The first is the 80/20 rule. When running Feld Technologies in my 20s, I remember reading a book about consulting that said a great consultant spent 20% of their time on “overhead” and 80% of their time on substantive work for their clients. I always tried to keep the 80/20 rule in mind – as long as I was only spending 20% of my time on bullshit, nonsense, things I wasn’t interested in, and repetitive stuff that I didn’t really have to do, I was fine. However, this time around, I’d somehow gotten the ratios flipped – I was spending only 20% of my time on the stimulating stuff and 80% of my time on stuff I viewed as unimportant. Much of it fell into the repetitive category, rather than the bullshit category, but nonetheless I was only stimulated by about 20% of the stuff I was doing. This led to a deep boredom that I didn’t realize, because I was so incredibly busy, and tired, from the scope and amount of stuff I was doing. While the 20/80 problem was the start, the real root cause was the boredom, which I simply didn’t realize and wasn’t acknowledging." 

I do something similar, it's more of a 50% rule.  If I'm not having fun at least 50% of the time, I'm not doing the right stuff.

I'm wondering if modifying that to 80% isn't a bad idea.

More on it in Brad's archives here:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Use of the word "Hacker"

Apparently, the US Legal System hasn't kept up with the use of words in the English language over the last Ten years.

From the blog Digital Bond:

Call Yourself A Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment Rights

It seems all you have to do is saying something like this:  “We like hacking things and we don’t want to stop”  on your website, and a court can decide you don't deserve your Constitutional 4th Amendment Rights protecting you from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Read the article and decide for yourself, but, this tells me using the word hacker in my little world of hackerspaces just got a lot more tenuous.  And that's sad.

We use this word because it fits what we do.  We hack things up by taking them apart and putting them back together in different, often better, forms.  We hack together something new out of nothing.  We hack our way into something that's broken or dead or no longer useful and fix it, bring it back to life and make it useful again; often with a new purpose.

Telling us that using the word hacker can cause a suspension of constitutional rights and protections, is just nuts.

So, now I'm thinking we should consider renaming our local hackerspace.

From this:

TinkerMill, The Longmont Hackerspace


TinkerMill, NOT Longmont's Hackerspace, but something else, like, close, but NOT a Hackerspace.  Really.


I'm starting the lean toward creatorspace.  I like makerspace, but the Make Magazine folks (i.e. O'Reilly Publishing) have made it clear that they own that name (maker, makerfaire, etc. etc.).  I'm pretty sure any place calling itself a Makerspace is going to have to, eventually, pay the Make Magazine guys a royalty fee.

So, as an alternative to Hackerspace, maybe Creatorspace is the way to go.  I know NASA calls their hackerspace "Creatorspace".  Maybe it's generic enough that all of us can start using that phrase to describe what our hackerspaces really are without opening ourselves to the risk of a 4th Amendment Rights suspension.

I can't even believe I'm writing about this, frankly.  Our legal system could use a good dose of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Starting a Hackerspace or Makerspace - some specifics

Lately, a bunch of people have been asking me about hackerspaces and makerspaces (same thing, different feel to the words, go with whatever you prefer).

I guess it's because I was a member of Denver's hackerspace (denhac) and on it's board of directors.  I also started the Longmont Hackerspace (TinkerMill) in the spring of 2013 and have learned a bit about the current state of hackerspaces, getting them started and running them.  This post is about starting the basics of how to start one with some specifics and some examples.  I may do more on running them in the future, but for now.. just get started.

A bit of background:

There was a time, 5-6 years ago, when it was hard to get people to understand what a hackerspace was.  That time is no more.  It's significantly easier to start a hackerspace today than it was even a year ago.

The two things that have changed are awareness of what a hackerspace/makerspace is, and tools for gathering like minded folks to help get it going, fund it and run it.

There's a kind of movement happening not just in the US, but globally.  You could call it Do It Yourself (DIY) or hacking, or making.  It's all the same.  People want to take control of their lives and their surroundings more.  They don't want an off the shelf from a large conglomerate retailer.  They want to make their own.  They also want to learn about how things work, and how things work together.  Mixing technology with art and with business and civic awareness.  Delving deep into education, both primary and adult.  A hackerspace is a sharing of tools and knowledge as well as a place of collaboration that every city in America (really, the world) should have available to it.  And every city should encourage and foster this for no other reason than new business formation and better educational levels for it's citizens.

How to start a hackerspace / makerspace:

It's substantially simpler than you might believe.  Don't overthink it, just do it.

1) Go to and create an account.  Set up your first meetup and call it [name of city/town] Hackerspace Meetup (or if you prefer Makerspace Meetup).  Meetup is a truly wonderful service and worth every cent they charge for it's use.

2) See how many people show up for the meetup.  It it's 4 or more, you have enough interest in your town to create a hackerspace/makerspace.

3) Have weekly planning meetings.  Leaders and truly interested folks will emerge.  This is your initial leadership team (and likely, the bulk of your first Board of Directors).  Once the leaders emerge, you're ready to start collecting money (membership dues) to pay for rent/utilities on a space.

4) Set up the rules.  You'll need by-laws (keep it simple) and you'll need paperwork that covers the various legal and liability issues of setting up a hackerspace.  Don't do this from scratch, it's already been done:  Copy other hackerspaces work.  When we created TinkerMill, we copied several different hackerspaces documents.  The basics you'll need are:

a) By-Laws.  These are the rules by which the group operates.  (Generic example:
b) Member Services Agreement (generic example:
c) A simple but complete liability waiver (generic example:
d) A set of policies and procedures (generic example:
e) A services addendum (what you offer/what it costs) (generic example:

That's all the paperwork you need to run your operation, to start.

5) Figure out the money.  You'll need two kinds of money initially, startup money to pay for two things:  Ongoing costs (Rent & Utilities, to start) and Startup Costs (depost, liability insurance, 1st months rent, some chairs, maybe).  That's really all you need to start.  Most of the tools and other equipment in the first 6 month or so will come from your membership.  The way to raise this money, initially, is simple:  Founder donations and Membership Dues.

a) Founder donations.  Ask for a significant, but doable amount, to be a named Founder (say $300).  Payable whenever they can do it ($50 mo over 6 months, $25 mo over a year, whatever they can do).  Have them sign a pledge to do it  (generic example:   This gives you capital to pay the upfront expenses of finding and occupying a hackerspace.
b) Member dues.  Pick a number that fits your location.  TinkerMill in Longmont, CO. has three levels:  Student/starving hacker ($25 mo); Regular Membership ($50 mo) and Family Membership ($75 mo). .  Your milage may vary.  NYC Resister, for instance, has a $115 mo Regular membership fee.  If your rents are high, your membership fees go up (and vice versa).

There's more you can do here, such as charge a 'desk fee' for a dedicated desk that members can use to startup a company, or as a place they can set up and longer term dedicated project space.  Don't worry too much about that at the beginning though.  It's a problem you'll be happy to have down the road.

6) Find a space.  Go for light industrial, low cost.  Try for cement floors and a space for a classroom/meeting room.  We found 2000 SF is a good starting size, although more is better and less can be doable, especially in higher cost markets (NYC Resister in NY started with 800 SF).

Once you've gotten enough people to throw in Founder donations and Membership dues to rent the space and get your startup costs in order, you now have a hackerspace / makerspace.

7) Fill it with chairs, tables technology, art and tools.  Your membership will donate pretty much everything you need.  Just ask them.  You'd be amazed what people have sitting around unused in their basements/garages/storage units.  You will find, within 3 months, you're turning away donations due to space limitations.  All the rest of it will come together from your members (websites, blogs, etc.).

Trust your membership.  They'll figure out quickly what it is the space should be used for and they'll make it happen.