Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’Category

Why Discourse?

Why Discourse?

I’m not sure people understand maintenance burden.

Google groups has been a maintenance headache. Probably one of the smaller maintenance headaches, but still a problem.

With most of the system’s that PS:One has developed over the last several years, new member handling, auto admining of the 40 or so systems group member’s, etc has been automatic.

PS:One cycles through motivated individuals pretty quickly. If we ever come across a gap between an old productive member and a new ones, we lose something. There are a few ways to handle this: One is to stop burning people out, and to make sure that gap doesn’t exist. The other is to reduce the amount of information that can fall in that gap.

Per application user management is a great way to burn out technologically creative individuals. I’ve seen it happen a few times.

Our current systems approach is to reduce maintenance burden to deal with the first problem. The other is to make most of the tasks a systems person needs to carry out be automatic. Google Groups has not presented us with much as far as solutions to deal with these 2 problems. They offer no api to add or remove subscribers, and are notoriously difficult to write scraping tools for, and offer no guarantee of long term stability for scraping tools.

We have investigated a few potential solutions for mass communication in the membership. Most of these focus on web forum technology, as we are hitting the magic threshold where mailing lists are no longer the right solution due to message volume. So far discourse is the most promising.

Jeff Atwood Is one of the main developers and founders of discourse. Previously he started stack overflow with Joel Spolsky (the Joel on Software guy), and has been running a blog called coding horror since about 2004. He’s got some experience with online communities and a lot of opinions and practical experience on what makes them work well and what doesn’t, including a few very well known implementations of online discussion platforms. I don’t always agree with his technical and social decision minutia, but I have to understand that he’s coming from a wealth of experience, and has left the discourse discussion platform open to plugins and extension.


09 2015

Hack a Replacement Wacom Tablet USB Cable



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Did you lose the USB to USB Micro B cable that connects your Wacom pen tablet to your computer? Don’t panic! This is not necessarily another propriety piece of equipment you can only get from the manufacturer. There is a quick fix.

The cable that comes with the Wacom may alarm you to have lost it; it looks unique, since the smaller Micro B end has a 90 degree angle turn. This is a design element possibly for aesthetics and maybe to prevent the cable from pulling out easily from the tablet while it is in use. You do not need a replacement cable exactly like the one that shipped from the manufacturer. What you need is a replacement cable that fits.

This is where cable replacement gets tricky because the Micro B port on the tablet is deep and very narrow. Most cheap, off the shelf cables have both ends encased in a massive brick of rubber that will not fit the tiny 6 mm tall by 12 mm wide Wacom Micro B opening. You can take any old cable and make it fit by whittling down the rubber as close as you can to the metal. A box cutter with a sharp, new blade works well. I tried to improve the look of this hacked cable with a single wrap of electrical tape, but had to then remove the tape as that still made the Micro B end too thick to attach.

If you want a neater cable to use for the long term, beyond this DIY quick fix, step away from the cable aisle in your electronics store and head over by the cell phone accessories. The Micro B cables marketed for smartphones tend to have a sleeker design, more color choices and smaller rubber grips which will insert into the Wacom. Bring your pen tablet with to make sure the cable you select will fit before you leave the store. Also, be sure you get a combined data and charging cable, since charging only cables that look similar are usually in the mix of products for cell phones.


09 2015

Crappy Robots Rise To Compete Once Again

Hey Hacky People,

The last crappy robot competition we ran ( went so well that we’ve decided to do it again. Bring your crappy ideas to the Chicago North Side Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, May 2, 2015. We’ll start competing at 14:00.

Sr. Abrazos (the unofficial mascot of crappy robots) dukes it out against Unilowbrow with its dukes up!

Sr. Abrazos (the unofficial mascot of crappy robots) dukes it out against Unilowbrow with its dukes up!

Sign up here:

View the official rules here:

Note that the official rules are subject to change. If you are registered for the competition, you will get notice of rule changes.

Check out for inspiration! HEBOCON is what inspired us to put on our own crappy robot competition!

Justin T. Conroy

Robot at Large


04 2015

I made a pretty octopus


Messing around in Illustrator and Photoshop today.  I made an Octopus.


02 2015

Preliminary Crappy Robot Competition Follow-Up

Thanks to Justin and SIGBOT for sponsoring the “Dumb Robot Competition for Dummies” or the Crappy Robot Competition last night. Thanks also to everyone who came out!

We promise to upload the video that was graciously recorded by Carl and Jimmy for us in the near future. There will also be better quality pictures. There will also be more information about the competition coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the Pizza Bagel bot!

Round 1: Everett (Unilowbrow) vs. Bioguy (Senor Abrazos)



01 2015

The Dumb Robot Competition for Dummies

This robot is so crappy! <3

Bioguy made a crappy robot for us!


Hey Hacky People,

I’m holding a crappy robot competition at the end of the month. This
competition is targeted at people who DON’T KNOW HOW TO BUILD ROBOTS!

Inspired by HEBOCON in Japan: , crappy
robot will be pitted against crappy robot in some type of sumo match.
Some will win, some will lose, some will fall apart before they even
enter the ring. Everyone will enjoy themselves!

Here’s the essential details you need to know:

Date: January 29, 2015 @ 19:00
Location: Pumping Station: One Electronics Lab
Register to compete at
Only the first 31 people to register will be allowed to
compete, so register early!

The full rules will be published some time before the competition
starts. Here’s the main things you need to know:

* Robots will compete inside a circular ring.
* The goal is to either knock the other robot over, or push it out of the ring.
* There will be a penalty for making your robot too high tech
(questions about this should be directed at the judges).
* If you’re playing to win, you’re missing the point! :-)

Happy Hacking!

Edit: The rules can be found here! As always, they are subject to change.


01 2015

NERP Tonight — Wireless Toys

NERP Tonight — Wireless Toys

The Internet of Things (IoT) need lots of options for wireless communication hardware. Lots of variables are involved in choosing the wireless chip or module that links your new Thing to all the other Things.

A popular last millimeter link is UART based serial. the big end of the link can be wifi, or uart-style data., or whatever convention you come up with. This class of hardware has been around for a long time. The serial to wifi link used to be called a com-port redirector. Commercial units could easily cost $200. The competition pressure brough on by the IoT movement has produced a crop of really inexpensive data links. They list now on Amazon for $2-$10. A lot of them have Arduino sample code available. I just bought two different boards from Amazon, and tonight I’ll evaluate one or both units and see what’s involved in making them go.

NERP is not exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer
and embedded systems interest group at Pumping Station:One
in Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping
Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One at…­
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is November 24th, 2014.

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, Pumping
Station One


11 2014

PS: Yum Watson Edition


Using a beta version of Chef Watson, we will attempt to create whatever wacky recipes come out of Watson’s “mind.” Come join us for some artificial-intelligence driven fun!

The way it works: you input ingredients that you have on hand into Chef Watson, which will then output a recipe for you, usually adding more ingredients. Feel free to bring your own, and we will probably be making a trip to Jewel.

Where: PS:One Kitchen
When: Tonight: Sunday November 23, 2014 at 6 PM




11 2014

SIGBOT meeting: Thursday, November 20, 2014 @ 19:00

This month for SIGBOT, we’ll be having a special guest lecturer. One
of our own members, Darold Higa, will be presenting research he did
where he used genetic algorithm techniques to simulate interactions
between agents in settings that resemble our human history. The

Read the rest of this entry →


11 2014

Maker Art: (Another) Opening Tonight in Pilsen

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My knitted-circuit artwork, Electronic Damask, was in a gallery show, NoFi, at Chicago Artists Coalition, October 24 – Nov 13. The piece was a collaborative effort, put together through the volunteer efforts of close to two dozen PS:One members. PS:One really represented at the Oct 24 opening, and I managed to drag most of us in front of the camera for a group photo with the artwork. (Thanks to Everett for the photo!)

If you missed the fun that night, you’re in luck. Electronic Damask has already been tapped for another show, and with an opening tonight in Pilsen, from 6 – 10pm.

This show should be of particular interest to PS:One members. It’s called Technologic and it “celebrates making art through technology”. It features some amazing stuff made with 3D printers, LCD screens, CNC watercolor painting, and of course a certain knitted e-textile.

The gallery, Chicago Art Department, is located at 1932 W Halsted in East Pilsen’s Chicago Art District (#8 Halsted bus runs right past it). Tonight’s opening coincides with the district’s 2nd Fridays gallery night, so there will be other openings all over the neighborhood.

You can find preview photos of the show on the facebook page. Full info is below. The show runs until December 6.

curated by Chuck Przybyl

Friday, Nov 14, 6-10pm

An exhibition that celebrates making art through technology. Work featured will include robotic drawing, 3D printing, laser cutting, textile circuitry, algorithmic art, image slicing, circuit bending, and prosthetics. Although often unsung – artists having access to new technologies has historically pushed and propelled creative endeavors. The exciting new technologies of today have been pushing the overall culture of DIY and propelling the Maker Movement. This is a participatory culture that embraces tools and empowers masses of people to innovate and create. Technologic explores and showcases not only how art is currently being produced with new tools, but how fringe technologies can be used in progressive and cutting edge ways.
Viewers also have an opportunity to “go deeper” to gain further insight through series of discussions and workshops as well information on the processes at the exhibit.

Technologic is curated by Chuck Przybyl for Chicago Art Department.
Artists: Tom Burtonwood, Christopher Furman, Harvey Moon, Luftwerk, Jesse Seay, Nathan Davis, Christopher Breedlove, Christian Oiticica, Leo Selvaggio, Antoine Kattar, and Russell Prather

Opening Reception Nov. 14 – 6-10 PM
3D Printing Workshop with Tom Burtonwood Saturday Nov – 15 – 2-5 PM
Panel Discussion  Saturday Nov – 22 – 2-5 PM
Chicago Art Department – 1932 S. Halsted St. Suite 100 Chicago IL 60622 USA


11 2014