Fab Lab and Media Lab

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a Fab Lab and a Media Lab. Milwaukee may soon be launching similar labs at Bucketworks.

Fab Labs have been a topic of interest to me ever since I read about them while doing research for a nanotechnology program at a local technical college. On the MIT Fab Lab 'About' webpage, it says, "By making accessible engineering in space (down to microns, through precision machining) and time (down to microseconds, through RISC microcontrollers), these facilities have been uncovering what can be thought of as instrumentation and fabrication divides, and suggesting that they can be addressed by bringing IT development rather than just IT to the masses." Neil Gershenfeld, the MIT mastermind behind Fab Lab says, "In a sense, this is like open-source software, but for hardware."

Another way to think of the Fab Labs is as a predecessor for nano-replicators or matter compilers as talked about in Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age". A well-equipped Fab Lab, with sophisticated open source software tools, will allow an Ordinary Citizen to make an amazing number of physical products that their mind can conceptualize. In the near future, SourceForge will likely host some really cool open source projects to convert Google Sketch-Up drawings into 3D drawings which can be used by 3D printers, mini-mills and laser cutters to make Ordinary Citizen's imagination come to life.

Media Lab is currently beyond my ken, but Justin K says "...while at GenCon, Jon and I took a break and went to the Art Museum, yes, we saw real art like Rembrant, but we also got to see the XRAY room that featured a 3d display that was powered by two DLP projectors, and polarized lenses. The display featured an arty version of the doom 1 engine and a 3d landscape that you could walk through, it made the original Doom engine look cool again. The room inspired us to think of uses for it like: putting two cameras on Jon and Pehr's remote controlled GoKart, or to visualize Jon's reactor better with a real-time 3d display for a barcamp presentation. The idea is there, but what could you use it for? Is anyone interested in building a media lab at Bucketworks? We have a few MIT folk around here, maybe we could inspire them to help us build a media lab that rivals MIT? Maybe a 3d display has some other value to the community like art, or rapid visualization?"

So, inspired by Justin, I added a session to the list for BarCampMilwaukee about a Bucketworks Fab Lab & Media Lab. As a start to making this session worthwhile, I sent an email to an MSOE person inquiring about connecting the MSOE Rapid Prototyping Center with BarCampMilwaukee and the Bucketworks Fab Lab project. Between now and September 30, I need to do a bunch more work (help wanted!) on getting the right people to the session and getting some neat Fab Lab or Media Lab equipment, tools and supplies to make it an interesting time.

Got ideas or want to participate in the Bucketworks Fab Lab & Media Lab? Show up at BarCampMilwaukee on September 30 - October 1, 2006, or come to the Tech Work Day at Bucketworks on September 10.


Sponsors for Events and Organizations

An interesting discussion took place today regarding the changes in the USA related to sponsoring of events and organizations.

Twenty years ago, many organizations, conferences and meetings were supported by sponsors, either through direct company memberships or donations, or through individual membership fees paid by companies those individuals worked for. Apparently the global economy's impact has been felt in the area of sponsorship and conferences. Traditional industry conferences are sparsely attended and membership is down for many organizations.

Thin profit margins are the likely cause of the sponsorship decline in many, if not most, cases. Those thin profit margins, resulting from global competition, have caused many companies to downsize and to cut expenses. One person from a local corporation told me he forgot how to fill out expense reports because nobody travels anymore for company business. One of the casualties of the new world of work, at least in Wisconsin, is that very few employees go to industry conferences and many individual memberships in professional organizations have been dropped.

Local civic organizations are also suffering right now. Many Chambers of Commerce have membership issues and corporations do not provide nearly as much financial support to the community as they used to.

What does that mean for conferences and community or professional organizations? It means the world has changed, and those events and organizations must re-evaluate what benefits their customers are willing to pay for, and whether they need to change to survive or whether their services are no longer deemed of value.

One small result of the above changes is barcamps. The concept behind barcamps is to do an event based on the passionate interests of participants and to do it in a low-cost way. When is the last time there was a traditional 'conference' where the attendees were for the most part passionate about being at the event, or where the attendees spent the night in sleeping bags on the floor at the event venue, if they slept at all? What this means is that there are viable ways for those highly interested in sharing and gaining knowledge and skill in a particular topic. But the models seem to be changing, and it will be an interesting time as some conferences and organizations move to the open source model.

Come to BarCampMilwaukee on September 30 - October 1, 2006. See some of what a barcamp or unconference can be! Help shape what is can be...



"All You Can Eat" Buffets

Although the internet is not a truck, a post read today brings up the question of whether it can be likened to an 'all you can eat' buffet.

In "Net Neutrality...Pass the Ribs, Please", it is posed that in some ways the internet can be thought similar to an 'all you can eat' restaurant buffet. When the author of the post was in college, he and 25 friends went to a local restaurant and stayed for three hours, wiping out many of the foods on the 'all you can eat' buffet, and depriving other diners of a good meal. That was the last week the restaurant had an 'all you can eat' buffet.

The not-really 'all you can eat' concept was related back to the telecom standard practice of overbooking services. Apparently a normal telecom ratio is that they oversell in the neighborhood of 20:1, based on typical usage rates. Everyone is told they have unlimited usage, but in reality, if everyone in the country tried to use land line phone all at the same time, even that system would work very poorly.

The internet is somewhat the same way. You are told you have unlimited usage, but that only holds true until someone actually starts taking advantage of the unlimited service. VoIP, video, file-sharing and spam may be combining to start seriously approaching the physical limit of telecom bandwidth lines. And as the story of "Pass the Ribs, Please" illustrates, when someone interprets "unlimited" literally, the rules may change.

Overall, net neutrality still seems like a good thing, but this is the first logic against net neutrality that has made sense to me.

Here's the final weekly issues list for NEW NET's 29 August 2006 gathering:


Vista/Gaming Box, Part 1

myDigitechnician has received "Part 1" of the Vista/Gaming computer it is building; the Seagate 320 GB hard drive showed up courtesy of FedEx!

myDigitechnician is building the Vista/Gaming box to be able to work with its clients who buy or upgrade to Vista in 2007 and to have a full-featured "portable" computer for gaming and other higher end uses.

The currently planned components of this computer are:
  • AMD processor, Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Windsor 2 GHz HT 2 x 512 KB L2 cache Socket AM2 Dual Core
  • Asus Motherboard, M2NPV-VM Socket AM2 nVIDIA GeForce 6150 Micro ATX
  • mushkin RAM, Enhanced Performance 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM Unbuffered DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Dual Channel kit System
  • nVIDIA Video Card, 3D Fuzion 3DFR76256GTSINE Geforce 7600GT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16
  • Seagate HD, Barracuda 7200.10 ST3320620AS (Perpendicular Recording Technology) 320GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
  • Aspire Case, X-QPACK-NW-BK/420 Black Aluminum 1.0 w/ ABS plastic front panel MicroATX Desktop Computer Case ATX 420W Power Supply
  • Pioneer DVD burner, 16X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 16X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 5X DVD-RAM DVD-ROM 40X CD-R 32X CD-RW 40X CD-ROM 2M Cache ATAPI 16X DVD±R DVD Burner With 5X DVD-RAM Read (Wow! Is that a lot of numbers, or what? They should put a model number on that...)
The Seagate 320 GB HD was on sale for $95, with no rebates, so that had to be ordered. Prices for the other components will be monitored over the next few weeks, as well as prices for alternate parts that are acceptable. The remainder of the parts will likely be purchased prior to BarCampMilwaukee, since it would be nice to either build the system at BarCampMilwaukee as one of the sessions, or have the completed system at the event to game, to demo Second Life and to run Vista.

If you'd recommend any alternate parts, please submit a comment or email us. We're always looking for good ideas!



Workshop Sessions at BarCampMilwaukee / NN issues

Random neuron firing this morning generated ideas for (at least) two workshop sessions at BarCampMilwaukee: Portable Computing With a Flash Drive & CD, and Arcade Game Repair/Burger Time.

The concept of workshop sessions at BarCampMilwaukee is that they involve more than talking and writing on paper or whiteboards. Workshops involve hands-on making of an end product or physical skill. This can be a single end product which everyone contributes to and can use, such as websites or programs from mashups or group programming sessions that Pete P has discussed. A workshop can also involve multiple products everyone can make and take home with them, such as some custom business cards or a new program or customized flash drive. Alternately, a workshop session can involve hands on working with physical objects, such as the lock picking session mentioned below.

The 'Portable Computing With a Flash Drive & CD' workshop session would consist of everyone putting together an 'ultimate' 1 GB flash drive and CD. When you're not in your normal computing location (away from the office, dorm or home), you should still be able to compute securely, privately and comfortably. One way to do this without dragging around your laptop is to use a flash drive or, in some cases, a CD. Gina Trapani has a good post on the topic, "Carry your life on a flash drive". The session also ties in two of Gina's other posts, "Securely track your passwords" and "Encrypt your data", and covers Luke W's method of booting Linux from a flash drive. This author's knowledge is too scant to lead such a session, but other appropriate session co-leaders will be rounded up. The CD part of the session is discussing or customizing "live" CDs such as Ubuntu, Knoppix or Bart's PE for those cases where you can't use the flash drive.

The 'Arcade Machine Repair/Burger Time' session will happen if a hardware hacker or two can be located who are willing and able to help troubleshoot a malfunctioning table arcade game, Burger Time. If the assembled BarCampMilwaukee participants can repair the machine, it can then be used for relaxation classic gaming by the participants. Who knows --- by the end of BarCampMilwaukee the table arcade machine may be hacked and able to play many classic games... Let me know if you can help with this session or know someone who probably can help. Gracias! (Luke said the access door on the game table may be locked and the key is missing --- sounds like justification for a lock picking session at BarCampMilwaukee! Is there a locksmith/hacker out there willing to lead a session on lock picking? Seattle Mind Camp and some other barcamps have had sessions on lock picking, since that's a time-honored tradition of hackers, starting with the MIT Model Railroad Club...)


Below is the initial list of issues for the 29 August 2006 NEW NET (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology issues) 7 pm weekly gathering at Mister Churro, 207 N. Richmond St., Appleton, Wisconsin, USA. The best churros and empanadas argentinas in Wisconsin are available at Mister Churro! The weekly issues list will be updated by 3 pm on 29 August.


Iraq War vs. Laptop Batteries

Two topics are top of mind this evening: The USA war in Iraq and batteries for portable electronics.

After reading what seemed a well-written pro-war essay in an email received this morning, I added some prefacing comments to the essay about considering both sides of emotional issues, then added two favorite anti-war songs after the essay and sent it off to a few select people. The essay had made me seriously consider what the war in Iraq is about, what the 'war on terror' is about, and war in general. Likewise, a bumpersticker that makes me think when I see it is, "WWJB - Who Would Jesus Bomb?"

After sending out the email looking at pros and cons of war, I decided email may not be an appropriate venue for reasoned discussion of a topic associated with so much emotion and such polarized viewpoints. What is curious, though, is how people can be so diametrically opposed on an issue, be firmly convinced that they are absolutely right and the other side is absolutely wrong.

Contact me in person to pursue discussion of war.

Regarding laptop batteries, as well as power sources for other portable electronic devices, it appears Apple is joining Dell on the Sony battery recall. Another post talks about lithium ion upcoming battery standards and a third online blurb discusses longevity and reviving dead batteries. It appears that burning batteries on a plane (BBoaP) have made battery news a hot topic.

I hope to soon be working on a project that could eventually make the current lithium ion batteries obsolete. Combining my hoped-for project with Samsung's laptop 32 GB flash RAM drives (likely to step up to 64 GB or larger in another year or so) will result in some awesome laptop capabilities. Revolutionary, not evolutionary.

So what's more important to discuss: war or portable power sources?

In person, and in life, war is definitely more important. Online, however, I'll spend more time talking about portable power.



Are You A 'Steve Wozniak'?

Here's a simple way to tell if you should participate in BarCampMilwaukee or another 'barcamp' near you.

Listen to this interview of Steve Wozniak. Can you hear the enthusiasm and passion in his voice? Tripping over his own words sometimes in his hurry to tell you what he's thinking. The excitement and need to do something in his chosen field of interest. The drive to do something fun and make something better than what already existed.

If you have that kind of overwhelming interest and excitement about something, especially if it involves technology in some way, you need to be a participant in BarCampMilwaukee.

Can you imagine what it will be like to have 50, or 100, or even 150 people together for two days at Bucketworks who are that excited about what they're doing and what they're making? When 100 individuals like that are bouncing around together talking about what they make and listening to what others make, there are bound to be some complementary personalities and perfect combinations of ideas. Those people and ideas coming together will result in projects, products and activities which would never have happened had those people not come to BarCampMilwaukee.

Malcolm Gladwell's concept of the tipping point and Schumpeter's theory about swarming may be both talked about and put into action at BarCampMilwaukee (...ideas can be contagious in exactly the same way that a virus is...new technologies related to these basic innovations...explosive growth of new technologies in some sectors and relative stagnation in others..."swarming" behaviour as many firms rushed to get on the "bandwagon" of the new growth area...spurts of innovation-related investment, caused by the simultaneously creative and destructive effects of technological innovation...).

Hope to see you at Bucketworks!



Passion and BarCampMilwaukee

BarCampMilwaukee needs people who are passionate about a particular issue or aspect of their lives and know or think that technology can play an important role in the part of their life about which they are passionate.

On Barcamp.org, the worldwide focal point for barcamps, it says, " A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants." There are four key points in that short description.
  1. "share and learn" -- this isn't an event for people to come with only one focus. Those who want only to learn might be well-advised to find a different educational venue. Those who feel they have much to tell others but nothing to learn should likewise go elsewhere to be a fount of knowledge. BarCampMilwaukee is for people who want to both share their accumlated skills, experience and knowledge and learn from others at the event.
  2. "an open environment" -- this event is about collaboration and open source. If you can't or don't want to share information about your passion, this event isn't for you. For those unfamiliar with the open source concept, consider reading "Open Sources 2.0" before participating in BarCampMilwaukee. It may open your thinking to some inspiring new concepts and cause you to be even more excited about participating in barcamps. The book itself is a good example of open source. You have no excuse for not reading it because it can be read online. I have the hardcopy of the book because it's nice to be able to read it away from the computer, but that's just my preference.
  3. "discussions, demos and interaction from participants" -- everyone at BarCampMilwaukee is encouraged and expected to be a participant, not just a spectator or quiet attendee. That participation can take the forms of discussion, demos, or other interactions. Everyone should show up at the event ready to lead a session. If you aren't comfortable leading a session by yourself, either find someone else to co-lead a session or volunteer to help someone else with a session in which you're really interested. Also consider taking the plunge and lead a session even though you're uncomfortable doing it. Come to the planning meetings at Bucketworks. Help set up on September 30 before the start of BarCampMilwaukee. Help clean up on October 1 after the event is finished. Volunteer to bring equipment or supplies. Be a sponsor of the event, or go out and recruit sponsors for the event. Spread the word about BarCampMilwaukee to others who are passionate about making things using technology. Be a Participant.
  4. "intense event" -- this phrase is the key to a great BarCampMilwaukee experience. People who bring a topic they're passionate about and who buy into the other three important aspects of barcamps will create an "intense event." They'll be engaged and they'll get others engaged. Bring your skills and experiences, lead a session, learn and share, but above all, be involved and be passionate about what you make.
Here's the final weekly issues list for NEW NET's 22 August 2006 meeting (7 - 9 pm at Mister Churro, 207 N. Richmond St, Appleton, Wisconsin, USA, Earth):


Wireless Business ISP

myDigitechnician is making its first ISP connection upgrade.

In the beginning there were bulletin boards. When the Chief Technology Officer of myDigitechnician was in grade school, he used external modems (1200 baud?) to connect to those bulletin boards. There were some games, and some sites with jokes and a number of other interesting nodes on the pre-net with which he became familiar.

Then there was dial-up internet connections at home. AppleIIgs in the early days, followed by a Micron Win98 machine. In those days, there were ten Netscape windows open at once so one could be reading one of the webpages while the other nine were loading. The ISP connection started out with limited amount of connect time and was soon upgraded to unlimited connect. That dial-up connection was relegated to back-up and shell-account access status when a basic residential cable connection with Road Runner was installed a number of years ago. That basic cable was the 'net connection with which myDigitechnician was launched, in addition to the old dial-up connection for those rare times when cable is out or Luke needs a specific dial-up service not available from remote locations as part of the cable connection.

Today, TDS Metrocom emailed myDigitechnician the signup forms to get a medium speed business class wireless connection. The connection is 2 Mbps symmetrical, with five static IPs. The symmetrical speeds and static IPs are what Luke W has been eagerly anticipating and waiting for. The TDS antenna is due west of our location about 1/4 mile away, so the signal should be reliable. Luke had experience with TDS wireless when working with a client who lives in Darboy, where TDS first trialed the service. The signed forms for wireless service will be given to TDS tomorrow. While waiting for the TDS Metrocom wireless to be installed and prove itself, the current Road Runner cable 'net connection will be left in place. Once the wireless is in operation and working well, the cable ISP service will be canceled.

The hope is for a seamless transition from cable to wireless. The best scenario is no noticeable difference, other than faster uploads and, possibly, a slight increase in download speed. As business picks up and a need is established for higher speeds, the system may upgrade to the next speed level. That current 'next level' is 4 Mbps symmetrical, but it would be nice if that level was 10 Mbps a year or two from now...



Sessions at BarCampMilwaukee

Session ideas was one of the discussion topics at the second planning meeting for BarCampMilwaukee.

The second planning meeting was held today, 20 August 2006, at Bucketworks in downtown Milwaukee during the regular Fireseed meeting. Eleven people showed up for the meeting, six of whom had not been at the first meeting two weeks ago. Thanks to everyone who showed up and is taking an active part in doing the prep work for BarCampMilwaukee! Check the Current Events page to find out when the next planning meeting will be.

The main purpose for the planning meeting was to discuss the basics of BarCampMilwaukee such as, should there be a limit on number of participants, what equipment is needed, what food should be planned for, etc. That discussion was held, although there are still lots of logistics to discuss further and get figured out. But some of the more lively discussion centered around how the ideal 'barcamp atmosphere' can be encouraged and facilitated, and a various sessions that would/will be fun to participate in.

One session idea endorsed by numerous people at the meeting was to develop a patent for submission to the USPTO. This would be a real patent designed to meet the normal patent criteria and would be a patent application with a high expectation of having the patent for it issued. A large number of BarCampMilwaukee participants would contribute to the the patent during the session(s) and over the course of the two day event. All those who participate in the development of the patent would then be listed as co-authors of the patent. One session could be to develop an idea which has a very high probability of receiving a patent, as determined by a couple patent attorneys and other BarCampMilwaukee participants who are familiar with the patent system. Another session could be to brainstorm lots of ideas to patent, and take the top couple ideas to subsequent sessions for development of all the patent application materials.

A session idea discussed with Yoda on the way back to Oshkosh/Appleton after the meeting was one focused around Real-time Google Earth. It was almost inconceivable ten years ago that anyone anywhere on earth could display on a computer an aerial photograph of any spot on the earth. Extrapolating the Google Earth model forward a year, or five or ten years, the question becomes: Will there be high-resolution real-time aerial video available to John Doe via the internet, i.e. Real-time Google Earth? The challenge regarding this potential session for BarCampMilwaukee is how to get knowledgeable people (government policy, satellite technology, etc) to the event so the session discussion is more than just uninformed personal opinions about what technology is required to enable Real-time Google Earth and what political, military and sociological constraints will play into whether such technology appears on our screens.

Other intriguing session topics were discussed, but the real need for BarCampMilwaukee at this point is not to come up with cool topics. The more important challenge is to make sure lots of people passionate about technology find out about the event. If you know some of those people, and they have an area of expertise and depth of knowledge they'll share, let them know about BarCampMilwaukee, get them to register as a Camper, and make sure they sign up to lead a Session!



Gtalk's Jazayeri: IM "Service Federation"

Good news for those awaiting highly or totally interoperable instant messaging (IM)! Google appears to be working on a solution.

Per Mike Jazayeri, a Google Talk product manager, Gtalk "...is merely the first in what could be a whole "communications suite" of applications. "We are investing in a real-time communications platform," he said in an interview. "Google Talk is the first instance of that." Google is interested in "service federation," the idea that users can use any service with any chat program they want." If any company has the money and brainpower to connect all the IMs, it's Google. It wouldn't be surprising if some Googlers are already spending their 20% time on IM service federation... See Arstechnica for their full article about Gtalk.

It looks like in the near future Luke W won't have to fire up Gtalk to IM me. He uses AIM most of the time. Because of Google's investment in AOL, it is expected Gtalk and AIM will be talking to each other soon. Luke will be able to continue to use AIM but also be able to IM to my Gtalk account.



August 20: BarCampMilwaukee Planning Meeting

If you want to help plan BarCampMilwaukee, make room on your schedule to show up at Bucketworks on August 20.

For those interested in making BarCampMilwaukee a successful tech event, come to the planning meeting to give your input and offer your help. There are so many fun, worthwhile, interesting activities that can happen at BarCampMilwaukee. But it will take time and work on the part of highly interested people to make some of them happen. Get more info about the planning meeting at the BarCampMilwaukee Current Events page.



Gtalk Upgraded: IM's Momentous Day

Gtalk just got an upgrade. It can now send files and photos, as well as do a few other new tricks. Because Google's my favorite search engine and Gmail's my favorite webmail, Gtalk is the IM most used on my computer. Andy M at NEW NET prefers to use Yahoo! Messenger, and Luke W prefers AIM. What we really need is IM that works like email. No matter what email program you use and what program is used by the person to whom you send the email, the email gets there. It will be a Momentous Day (TM) when that day arrives where IM follows the email interoperability concept.

The technology currently used for IM to allow for "instant" messenging makes the interoperability problems understandable. But needing to use several different IM programs to connect with various friends and acquaintances is unacceptable. So the technology needs to be changed. There are various ways to connect several different IM services, such as Gaim, Trillian, and the recent pact between Yahoo! and Microsoft. None of those is the answer. What will happen is that one of the 14 year olds out there will at some point become disgusted with the IM mess. That teen will get tired of having three IM programs running on their computer, and they'll develop a new way to do IM that will change the IM world forever. Then I'll be able to use Gtalk to connect with everyone on AIM, Windows Live (MSN) Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and any other IM clients out there.



Blogger Update and Windows Live Writer

If you want to blog, there are lots of tools out there to help you, many of them free. In the news are two of those tools, Google Blogger and Microsoft Windows Live Writer.

Blogger is rolling out a new beta of its free blog service. The existing blogs will be transitioned over to the new format gradually, but if you want to try it out, go to the Blogger beta webpage and sign up to make a new blog using the new features. Blogger hasn't had any significant improvements since Google bought Pyra Labs in 2003, so this upgrade is overdue. Some of the improvements are the ability to easily categorize your post with labels, control who can see your blog, and more easily format your blog instead of having to be moderately knowledgeable with HTML. This and other upgrades which will likely happen in the next year will make Blogger more competitive with the other available blogging tools. (editor's disclosure: I use Blogger for the myDigitechnician blog, which you likely know if you read the blog...)

MS Windows Live Writer is a new Live tool for doing WYSIWYG writing and editing of blogs. One article said Writer is essentially MS Front Page Lite that looks a lot like MS Word. In addition to publishing on Windows Live Spaces blogging service, you can use Writer to publish to Blogger, Live Journal and other blogging services. Publishing photos, inserting Windows Live Local maps and making blog publishing easy with the WYSIWYG interface are some of Writer brings to you. Like Blogger, the Writer beta is free.

New and improved blogging tools is a Good Thing. Competition is great for the consumer when it forces rival products to continually upgrade and improve. Let's hope they keep improving.

My favorite two tech phrases in the last week were 'Hasta la Vista' and 'Dude, you're getting a recall!'

Here's the final weekly issues list for NEW NET's 15 August 2006 gathering:


FDLLUG & BarCampMilwaukee

The Fond du Lac Linux Users Group plans to have a few members participate in BarCampMilwaukee.

We discussed BarCampMilwaukee tonight at the FDLLUG meeting after the regular presentation finished -- Rene H did a good overview of Qemu during the official part of the meeting. After the Qemu session was finished, a few of us talked about BarCampMilwaukee and what some good sessions would be. There was talk of an Electronic Frontier Foundation session. Yoda will try to connect with an EFF person he knows to see if they or someone else from EFF can come to Milwaukee for the event. There was also talk of doing one or two sessions on Open Source Gaming, with an open source gaming LAN party later in the wee hours of BarCampMilwaukee if there is enough interest.

Connections will also be made with the other Linux Users Groups in Wisconsin, as well as the Linux Users of Northern Illinois, who participated in BarCampChicago. Geeting a few people from each Wisconsin LUG should ensure the Linux OS is well represented at Bucketworks.

If you're involved in a LUG or know someone who uses Linux regularly or passionately, make sure you let them know about BarCampMilwaukee. This tech event is custom made for the type of people who like using Linux. Who needs a GUI when you have CLI?



Online Maps

It would be a bad thing if the interenet crashed permanently. One reason that would be bad is we could no longer use online maps.

For many people, online maps and map tools are used daily. Luke W uses them to find myDigitechnician clients' houses. He also used it to plan his route to the campsite this weekend where he is currently ensconsed in his sleeping bag under the Perseid meteor showers. We used Google Maps to look at an aerial photograph of the campground and surrounding area. Then we used Topozone to look at a topographic map of the area around his campground. In the pre-internet days (actually, only a few years ago) we would have had to buy those maps and aerial photos unless we were lucky and found them at the library.

Yesterday my cousin Dan called and invited me to visit him at his cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He started giving me directions, and since the internet was only keystrokes away at the desk, Mapquest popped up on the screen and the route could be followed as he described what roads to take and where to turn. His cabin is off the main roads, so having the map right in front of me was helpful because it was possible to follow his directions and know exactly where his cabin is located. As with Luke's campground, the road map session was followed by a look at aerial photographs and the topo map for the area around the cabin. He mentioned the cabin was on a river, and with the aerial photograph, not only could the river be seen clearly, but the cabin itself was also visible! Because Google Maps and Microsoft Maps sometimes have different resolution aerial photographs available, both of them were checked to see if either gave a better view.

Andy M at NEW NET is a big fan and user of Microsoft Streets & Trips. He uses it frequently, and in some respects it is better than maps available online. For one thing, he doesn't need an internet connection to be able to use Streets & Trips. The program also has more detailed information in some instances. At the NEW NET gathering this week Andy showed how Streets and Trips gave precise information as to which side of the street a particular house number is located and other helpful tips.

For more details on uses of Google Maps, check out Google Maps Mania, Essential Resources for Google Maps, and Cool Google Maps. Googling for a specific map topic in which you are interested will usually give a few sites that can help out on your particular topic.

If you know some other good online map resources or uses, please send links.

If you haven't yet signed up for BarCampMilwaukee, now is a good time to do that. A page was added to the wiki for Campers, so go there and add your name to the list! While you're on the barcamp site, add your suggestions for sessions you'd like to participate in, and put your name on any you'd like to lead. If you haven't edited a wiki before and want help, let me know (there's also a link to a wiki User Guide at the bottom of the Main Page.

The initial list of topics for the 15 August 2006 NEW NET gathering is below:


Reinstalling Windows Cost-effectively

Reinstalling Windows in the most cost-effective way is a procedure myDigitechnician needs to define or develop.

Malware is becoming better at hiding and more difficult to completely remove. Although it has always been accurate that a system can no longer be considered absolutely secure and private once it has been compromised, in the past it wasn't too difficult for a relatively skilled practicioner of the art to thoroughly clean up an infected system to the point where it was ok to use again. As anti-malware programs become more sophisticated and effective, the malware writers are being forced to use code and methods that are hidden better and more firmly entrenched than they were in the early days of viruses and spyware. Luke had a job this week on which he saw some malware trickery he had never before encountered. These black hats are motivated and smart!

There comes a point where it is more cost-effective to reformat a hard drive or partition and reinstall Windows because it takes less time to do the reinstall than it does to thoroughly clean the system. However, wiping and reinstalling has its own challenges and can take quite a while getting a system back to the point where the owner recognizes it as their computer.

So myDigitechnician's challenge is to develop the most cost-effective method for a reformat/reinstall of a personal computer that we've never worked on before and the most cost-effective method to make our current clients' systems ready to do a quick reformat/reinstall if they get badly infected.

If you have suggestion for effective reinstall on systems that haven't been set up to do quick reformat/reinstall, please leave a comment or contact me. I'll buy you a cup of coffee or beverage of your choice, and we'll start developing a useful tool. For exisiting clients, a beginning point probably includes a good data backup system, some type of disk image and orderly storage of system and program disks needed for the reinstall.



A Few Good Geeks

BarCampMilwaukee is looking for a few good geeks.

If you know any hardcore geeks who are doing cutting edge technology or are passsionately pursuing perfection in tech, make sure they know about BarCampMilwaukee. September 30 and October 1, 2006. www.barcampmilwaukee.com.

Whilst driving from Appleton to Madison and back today, I made a list of people I need to make aware of BarCampMilwaukee. Some of them are people I know who are in Milwaukee or elsewhere in Wisconsin. Others are people I don't know who live in Wisconsin or elsewhere around the country and around the world.

Some of these people I will contact directly and invite them to participate in BarCampMilwaukee. For others, I will try to find a connection to someone who knows the target geek, and I'll ask my connection to invite the person to partcipate on September 30 and October 1. You are encouraged to do the same thing. Invite some people deeply involved in tech that you always wanted to meet or that you thought were doing something really worthwhile with technology. Invite ten of the people on your list of interesting tech people, and if three of them come, that will be great!

Like yesterday's post mentioned, invite someone that's different from you. Let's work hard on getting great participants so this event is unique, fun, and something that makes you really glad you didn't miss it. It's important to make sure there are lots of people from Milwaukee because we want to build a critical mass of tech people in the Milwaukee area, creating a tipping point, as it were. But let's also figure out how to get some special people from the far corners of our round globe.

Make that list right now of ten people whom you will personally invite to BarCampMilwaukee. By the end of this weekend, say 8 pm on Sunday, August 12, make sure you have contacted those ten people, told them the date for this event, and told them how great it will be and how they absolutely need to participate.

By the way Justin and James, what is the maximum number of BarCampMilwaukee participants we can handle? Do we need to put a max on how many can come?

(Here's a tip -- sign up early on the BarCampMilwaukee site so you have a spot, because when the available slots get filled and you miss out, you'll really regret it.)



Partipants, Sponsors & Video - BarCampMilwaukee

The brainrush that comes from having 17 simultaneous cool thoughts bouncing around in your mind whilst trying to figure out what to work on first is exhilarating, yet slightly frustrating.

A couple online articles read today, plus an exchange of emails with Justin K and a few others this morning, have put my mind into BarCampMilwaukee mode. There are so many awesome things that can (and will) happen at this tech event -- the question is, which ones to do the prep work for first.

Three barcamp items come to mind as priorities; participants, sponsors and event video.

Participants - like it says on the website, this event is for anyone who loves technology and doesn't mind acronyms. The participant emphasis can not be over-stressed for BarCampMilwaukee. Everyone who comes should plan to do much more than sit and listen. You don't have to be the founder of or working at a tech startup to come to barcamp, but you should be doing more than going to work then coming home and just watching tv or dvds every night. If you're an avid WoW player or netizen in SL, lead a session about your virtual world. If you work at a robotics company, ask your boss if you can bring a robot to barcamp and demo it. If you develop video games, come and lead a session about the neat stuff you do in that area. Bring your tech passion to BarCampMilwaukee and lead a session on it. And if you know other passionate tech people, tell them about the event now and make sure they come to it.

Oh yeah. We want diversity in BarCampMilwaukee participants. If we don't work to get that, we won't get it. There should be lots of OSs present. Mac, Linux (all flavors), Windows, BeOS, others (and no discriminating against Windows users...). Different genders, ethnic backgrounds, and ages -- not only young white males, although it's ok for them to come too. So bring your friends and acquaintances who are different from you. Corporate, startups, college students, university faculty, high school, no school. Software people and hardware people. Those who do tech and those who use tech. The best way to learn, grow and enjoy the Journey is with some people very much like you and some very much different from you.

Sponsors - Justin says Milwaukee is a great community for in-kind sponsors. He is confident we'll have more than enough sponsors for the basics we need to make BarCampMilwaukee an outstanding success. He's off to a great start -- Bucketworks and James Carlson have proven Justin right for the hardest-to-pin-down resource, the venue. However, three non-traditional sponsor areas where barcamp could maybe use some help are sponsors of communications equipment for sessions, sponsors for components to make cool tech stuff, and sponsors to take care of travel expenses for out-of-town participants.

Some barcamp sessions will work best when there are specific communication tools available. It would be great to have sponsors who supply (loan or give) those communication tools. Examples of these tools are: LCD projectors to hook up to laptops (plus we need to figure out what we'll be projecting onto), large whiteboards & markers, lots of flipchart stands & paper & markers, tele-collaborating equipment (for any people we conference in from remote locations), LAN equipment if someone leads a session that requires the other session participants to hook into a separate LAN, etc.

One tech item mentioned at the 06 Aug planning meeting to make at barcamp was the LED sticky wall crawlers. It would be great if session leaders who want to have people in their session make a tech item could connect with sponsors that would supply lots of whatever components and equipment are needed. Maybe we could get a few CAD-prototypers, and someone could do a session with those. Maybe someone could lead a session on something cool with GPS units, and GPS manufacturers could supply 20 or 30 of those. Maybe we can build something from a 6502 or 8088 or 64 FX-62! Lots of possibilities in this area.

A final thought about sponsors concerns travel expenses for out of town participants. It would make BarCampMilwaukee even better than it will be anyway (is that recursive?) if we get some participants who are doing interesting tech stuff in other parts of the world. I'm thinking Seattle, San Francisco, Tucson, Flagstaff, Poughkeepsie, Bellingham, Cambridge, Scotland, Europe, Iceland, Australia, Japan, China, India, Switzerland, South Africa (Mark Shuttleworth, by way of England), Finland, etc. Sponsors could either bring their own employees to BarCampMilwaukee or take care of travel expenses for out-of-town interesting non-employee tech participants of their choosing. There are plenty of passionate tech people doing things in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and all of them should be at BarCampMilwaukee, but the area could also get some wild and crazy ideas by an infusion of new tech blood.

BTW, sponsors for barcamp are kind of like the rest of the barcamp preparations. Read over how barcamps work, bounce your ideas off Justin K to let him know what you're planning, then run with it. If we have lots of great sponsors, it won't be because one or two people arranged for them. It will be because a number of people passionate about having an awesome barcamp brought in some unforgettable sponsors. Just make sure the sponsors know this isn't an opportunity to sell -- it's a chance to participate in a tech event with people excited about making something unique and making a difference in the world. (Justin -- please review this and let me know which parts should be erased or changed... )

BarCampMilwaukee Video - one of the things I really liked about Seattle Mind Camp 1.0 was the video a participant made of the event. Between now and September 30, a search will be on to find someone to make an event video for BarCampMilwaukee showing all the phases of the event. That in itself can be a tech project for someone or some group. If you're interested in working on this (shooting footage, editing, composing the music, sponsoring the cost of doing this), please contact me or Justin K (or James C?). We don't need anyone to star in the video, because the participants will be the stars.

(On a somewhat related note, James C mentioned some interesting thoughts about doing live blogging at the event, along with podcasting, vodcasting(?), online posting of pictures during the event, etc.)

Final tech news issues list for 08 Aug 2006 NEW NET meeting: