Cybersecurity for Everyone

Monday November 25 from 7-9pm, Lisha Sterling from Geeks Without Bounds will be teaching Cybersecurity for Everyone at Pumping Station: One.

“No one would want to hack me!” (Famous last words.)

In this workshop, I explain what the real risks and threats are when you put your devices on the Internet and we discuss how to balance convenience with security in a sensible way.

You’ll get to see what wireless traffic looks like when someone’s sniffing it out of the air. You’ll see quickly why HTTPS is important for your personal web browsing, and why just having a WEP or WPA protected wifi connection isn’t good enough. (And if you don’t know what WEP or WPA are, you’ll learn that, too!) I’ll show you how people can find your vulnerable home and office devices — routers, printers and more — and tell you how to protect yourself before you get hit. How secure are your passwords? I’ll teach you a few tricks for creating memorable but unguessable keys for all your digital stuff. We’ll discuss how to use TOR safely, including common pitfalls and we’ll ask, is it possible to have secure email communication? We’ll finish up the evening with a quick tutorial on using Mailvelope for encrypting your webmail.


11 2013

Silicon ReSEMblance

Every year, the UIUC chapter of ACM has an student-run conference called Reflections|Projections . One (rather excellent) speaker at the 2013 conference was the well-spoken (and wickedly-smart) Todd Fernandez , who spoke about the state of the semiconductor integrated circuit industry. As a nice bonus for those brave souls who asked, or answered, a question during his talk, he was giving out junked silicon wafers. Not being much of a brave soul myself, but realizing that the wafer would make for an awesome sample in our now-functioning Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), I answered a question about Moore’s Law and scored a wafer.


Here’s a picture of a similar wafer we had on hand (Not the one we put in the SEM. We shattered that one.)

Saving you a trip to Wikipedia: the wafers are slices of an impressively large and pure single crystal of silicon (known as a boule) on which semiconductor devices (such as transistors) are fabricated. These devices are usually incredibly tiny and incredibly numerous.

What happens after that is that the SEM rasters a beam of electrons across the surface of the wafer sample and, in this particular case, utilizes its ability to detect secondary electrons kicked off the wafer by the beam. Because the surface is the important part and because the SEM’s resolution is so amazing, before we mounted the sample, we had to sterilize it in an acetone bath suspended in the space’s ultrasonic cleaner.


Now the cool part. Because, if you look at the picture below, you can easily see leads on the wafer that are 4 microns in width (and resolve gaps between the leads that are 2 microns wide). For reference’s sake, the diameter of a human hair is given as 100 microns on average. And that is awesome.


Many thanks to the exceptional Ryan Pierce, who helped me with this every step of the way.


-Jerry Lebedowych


11 2013

Using Bronze Age Technology to Move the Mill

When the Bridgeport  mill was delivered on Tuesday, we had the driver did set it on the floor by the back dock. The metal shop is near the front of the building, so we had to move the mill by hand into it’s new home. The mill weighs bout 2200 pounds, and it’s very top-heavy. This makes moving it difficult and somewhat dangerous. Dean suggested that we use pieces of 1-inch black pipe as rollers, Egyptian style. He brought along a large pry bar for lifting an edge of the mill up enough to slip a piece of pipe underneath. After a couple of pieces of pipe are under the machine, it can be rolled. It looks like it would just sail along, but small imperfections in the floor make pushing very hard in spots.


Steering is done with the pry bar by lifting up an edge of the base a tiny bit and then swivelling the captive edge about the fulcrum of the pry bar. A change of direction is accomplished in increments of a few inches per swivel. [We need to name a unit for inches per swivel.] Steering is also effected by the angle the pipes lie at, relative to the line of motion, and also by sheer force. My rough estimate is that the move was about 75 feet, and took about an hour and a half. JP set the pipes, Dean worked the pry bar, Mike and Steve did the forward push, and Tucker guided the machine into curves. As of Wednesday, the machine  is connected to power. Yea!


11 2013

The Mill Arrived Today! Yippee!


Thanks to the effort and generosity of a committed group of PS:1 members and project donors, we now have a Bridgeport milling machine. Special thanks go to Zlotan for keeping up the project momentum. Thanks to Tucker for setting the goals and doing a bunch of research and leg work.  And a big thank-you to Bart Dring for hooking us up with a sweet deal on a great machine and arranging the move.


There will be more to say and more to report as we integrate the mill into our shop. Stay tuned for further announcements.


11 2013

NERP Tonight: Big Blinkies

Tonight at NERP, Yours Truly will show a couple of ways to interface from low level logic to 120VAC to control lights, motors, etc.

It’s well understood that small microprocessors have very little power available on their output pins. A load controlled by the processor can be AC or DC, and low or high voltage. The interface circuit has to amplify the logic level signal to the appropriate power for the load.  An unusual method (Ok, it’s a hack) for controlling 120VAC light dimmers involves adding a photocell to a commercial wall dimmer, and coupling the photocell to the processor via a PWM’ed LED. (This method of interfacing involves working with dangerous voltages and currents. It is presented for demonstration purposes, only. Don’t try this at home. Or do. It’s your choice.) A simpler method of interfacing to 120VAC uses solid state relays for on-off control. We’ll see SSR’s  used for making a big blinky for large lamps.

NERP is not exclusively raspberry pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One

NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is Nov. 18, 2013 NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14


11 2013

Writing the Night Away with Writer Zen Garden and NaNoWriMo!

20131113 Pic 1November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  The objective is to write 50,000 words or more during the month.

One of the ways to do that is to attend a Write-In, an event where participants support each other, engage in word wars, and commiserate on the vicissitudes of the writing life – and otherwise abuse their vocabulary.

Tonight’s Write-In in the lounge was no exception.  We came, we wrote, and we played Go to unwind.  Writers worked on short story compilations, manga, speeches, and novels.  If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to write a novel, then by all means join us!  The next PS:One Write-Ins are Wednesday 11/20 and Wednesday 11/27 from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. in the Lounge.

The Writer Zen Garden hosts a number of events at PS:One, including our popular Prompt Circle, Artist Way Clusters, and Plotting Workshops.  Check us out on Meetup or stop by an event.

Write on!


11 2013

CNC Build Club – 4 Axis Milling



(picture from CNCCookbook blog)

This week we are going to play with the rotary axis on the little CNC mill.  We are going to assemble it and calibrate it.  We will use a demo of DeskProto to run a job on it.  We will of course start with the CNC Ninja Squirrel, then try some other projects.  It you have something cool to try, bring a file in STL format and a round piece of material to mill it out of.



Join us Thursday Nov, 14th at 7:00pm.



11 2013

Math Office Hours, this Sunday from 5 to 7

Express your inner mathnerd! Come join us for an evening of learning: algebra, calculus, word problems, finding x, and much, much more. We’re open to anyone looking to brush up on basic skills and to those who want to learn about more advanced topics. We can even stray into set theory, topology, and fourier analysis…. it’s all up to you!

If you’re feeling intimidated, don’t be. Any level of math experience is welcome. We will be happy to discuss any topic that falls under “math”. No question is too basic. Got a homework question? We can help! Trying to solve a tricky equation for a problem? We’ll think it through with you. Want to learn the basics of what math is all about? We’ve got you covered!

Math should be a common language to all, and we will be more than happy to help you take the first steps towards a lifelong appreciation of this beautiful subject!

Show and Tell

At the start of this week’s Math Office Hours, we’ll be doing show and tell. If you have a math topic you’re interested in, come tell us about it. Presentations can be as short as 2 minutes or as long as 20 minutes.

Whos, Whens, and Wheres

  • Who - Anyone who wants to learn about math
  • Where - PS:One, second floor, in the electronics area
  • When - Sunday, June 9th, 5pm until 7pm
  • How much - Free


11 2013

NERP Tonight: Ste on the Launchpad

Tonight at NERP, Ste Kulov will introduce the MSP430 line of microcontrollers from Texas Instruments. His talk will focus on using the MSP-EXP430G2 Launchpad kit.

The MSP product line from Texas Instruments contains an extensive variety of microcontrollers varying in size, peripherals, etc. MSP microcontrollers are know for being 16-bit, very low power, feature-rich, and low-priced. The development boards are called Launchpads. Open source software for developing on Launchpads has been scarce and not condoned by TI. This is changing however as TI has joined the msp-gcc project in collaboration with Redhat. One outcome to date is the energia development tools, which are a fork of the Arduino tools. (see the pix of Launchpads)

Here’s what Ste says he’s likely to cover. (It’s a lot, so we may run a little over time).

1.) Talk about the MSP-EXP430G2 Launchpad kit and what comes with it.

2.) Very brief overview of Energia, which is software that turns your Launchpad into an Arduino.

3.) Introduce Code Composer Studio, which is the official software used for most Texas Instruments software development.

4.) Basic Boolean algebra review.

5.) Go over simple tasks such as setting, clearing, and toggling bits.

6.) Run a simple “Hello World” LED blink program.

7.) Run through the project I had to create for my job.  It uses Timers, Interrupts, and the Low Power modes.

NERP is not exclusively raspberry pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One

NERP meets at 7pm Nov. 4, 2013 at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.
Doors open at 6:30pm. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com
Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14


11 2013

Orientation and Open House: Sunday October 27 at 4PM

knife flamesPS:One orientation (previously known as N00bs’ Paradise) is happening Sunday at 4pm in the downstairs lounge.

Never been, but want to learn more about PS:One?
New member?
Old member, but want to know all the secrets of the inner workings of PS:One?
Want to get certified, but don’t know how?
Want to doocritize, but haven’t even heard of do-ocracy?
Then this event is FOR YOU!
Free, open to all event – just show up at 4pm on Sunday the 27th

You’ll learn:

  • the one and only rule you need to remember at PS:One!
  • what mailing lists and IRC channels you should join
  • how to get discounts on classes, tee-shirts, stuff around town, and even monthly dues!
  • how to get certified on equipment
  • how to donate equipment to PS:One
  • how to create a class, event, group, meeting, or what have you
  • how to request a class, event, group, whatever
  • how to blog
  • the wiki.
  • do-ocracy and how to do-ocratize things

The basics:

  • Who: anyone who wants to learn more about PS:One and how it works
  • When: Sunday, October 27 at 4pm
  • Where: PS:One 1st floor lounge
  • Cost: free

Here are the class notes – please feel free to read beforehand (Note: these notes are not a good substitute for class attendance).


10 2013