The events of last week in the US have been a shock to us here at FreakLabs. As an organization, I've tried to build this company to do things to try to improve the world such as environmental monitoring, agriculture technology, renewable energy, and humanitarian work. We've been involved in working through natural disasters, helping displaced people, and monitoring endangered areas. In my mind, one of the greatest disasters I've experienced so far in my life occurred last week in the 2016 US presidential election.

When I was a child growing up in Southern California, as a Chinese-American, I always wondered why my family seemed so much different than the families I see on TV. We spoke a different language at home, we ate different food, and our family culture was completely different than what I was exposed to in American pop culture. My sister and I were the only Chinese people at our school for a very long time. There were times when I walked home and kids riding their bike would spit in my face as they rode past me. I had to endure constant bullying and kids saying "Ching chong ching chong" and pull the corners of their eyes up to make them slanted. The racism and bigotry of the kids around me were obvious and it made me feel isolated and alone.

As I grew up, I mainly hung around other Asians because I could never feel like I was part of a pure American culture. It was only after I left the country and became an expatriate living in Japan that I could feel how American I am. Meeting other Americans abroad, we shared a common language, culture, and a belief that no matter how hard it was for me as a child, our country was one that was moving towards racial diversity, cultural diversity, and progressive ideas. I was and still am extremely proud of my country because of that.

Last week, in the election where Donald Trump prevailed, it wasn't /that/ country that elected him. That wasn't the country I was proud of, of promoting tolerance, understanding, and a melting pot of cultures. It wasn't the country that was welcoming to the immigrants that sought refuge from whatever problems they had, no matter what era it was. It wasn't the country that built itself into an economic powerhouse on the backs of the immigrants that created it. It's ironic that Donald Trump came from the same area that also houses the Statue of Liberty, the beacon of hope for migrants and refugees crossing the ocean, signaling they came to safe harbor. The country I believe in wasn't the one that elected Donald Trump.

FreakLabs is a company that values tolerance, diversity, community, and social activism. I, as a representative of FreakLabs, want to make a stand that this company does not support the values the incoming Trump administration represent. The US is fractured and divided, with a lot of fear mongering and charged racial messages. I don't particularly want to involve FreakLabs in politics, but if it came down to choose sides, FreakLabs stands on the side of love and inclusion.


I just received a beautiful thank you gift from Hackaday in the mail and was thinking back about what led up to it. This year, I had the great honor of being a judge for The Hackaday Prize, which was a yearlong open hardware/software design contest whose focus was on making something that would improve the world. The grand prize was $200,000 or a trip to space. Incidentally, I had a bunch of arguments with my girlfriend about which prize I would take. I was more pragmatic and would have taken the money. She wanted the trip to space though. Ha ha ha.

I plan on putting a much lengthier post about this together later, but one of the things I've been working on over the past two and a half years is working with friends to build a community in the Japanese countryside. The cost of accomodations is extremely low and the natural setting is stunningly beautiful. It's all within an hour and a half from Tokyo too. Me and some other hackers/techies decided to move out there and set up a live-in hackerspace where we could pool our equipment and tools and work on interesting projects.

Hi everyone. It's been a long time since I've been active on the blog. I took about two years off to do a lot of things and re-evaluate what I feel is important in my life. The journey took me to the Himalayas, China, the Japanese countryside, and many other places. I'll be posting more about that later. In the meantime, I've been quietly following the sensor network industry, especially as it transitioned to the "Internet of Things" (which is kind of a weak buzzword since it really has no meaning).

I used to run a sensor network RSS feed a few years ago back when there was a deluge of protocols (Zigbee, 6LoWPAN, BLE, Z-Wave, Enocean, Ant, etc...). Things were tough to follow and so I curated a newsfeed that aggregated sensor network news from many sources, personally sifted out the decent ones from obvious crap, and tried to present an informed newsfeed for the sensor network community. Now, there are a lot of new players, a lot of things happening, and I still feel like a lot of the fundamental issues have not been addressed. In any case, there's enough exciting things happening that I feel like I need to start keeping up with the news again. And what better way to do that than to bring back my old sensor network newsfeed. This time, I guess it can be properly called an Internet of Things newsfeed, but it's mainly a newsfeed curated by me of things in the realm of sensor networks and IoT that are interesting. If you have a chance, please check it out. Here's the link to the RSS :)


I just got the powerpoint presentation for the new WS2861 from World Semi. They make the seemingly ubiquitous WS2812 RGB LEDs that are scattered around Kickstarter and the maker community.

Hi everyone.

Just a heads up that a project we're working on out here at hackerfarm, called TechRice, made it into Hackaday. If you have a chance, check it out here:

Sensor Net Makes Life Easier for Rice Farmers

Last week, Wrecking Crew Orchestra wrapped up their Cosmic Beat show which I helped out with. There were six performances in total, three in Osaka and three in Tokyo and it was a blast working on it with them. They recently published the opening set from the show which featured Wrecking Crew Orchestra, EL Squad. This was the group that made a big splash with "Tron Dance" in 2012.  

The Cosmic Beat show used quite a bit of modern stage technology including projection mapping and laser graphics. For projection mapping, they were using two 20,000 lumen projectors for the set projection and worked with a VFX company on the graphics for the mapping. We also worked with Shinichi Suzuki, aka "Laser Master", from Akari Center in Tokyo who did the laser work and normally does large concert venues. He's a topnotch laser guy and I learned a lot from him about how to operate lasers and laser scanners.

I'm happy to announce that after way too long, the new forum is now online . I switched from using the Joomla Fireboard forums, which are no longer being maintained or developed, to phpBB which has a very active development community. The reason for the switch was that the Joomla forums were easily targeted by forum spammers and I started having to spend a lot of time deleting spam posts from bots. Since Fireboard didn't support standard anti-bot tools like reCaptcha and Kismet, bots could essentially have their way with things. I have to admit that when I first started this site, I didn't give much thought to the tools. Truthfully, I didn't expect many people to visit the site so I just chose whatever was easiest. I now realize what a mistake that was. Ha ha ha. 

The forum should be much better with phpBB since it has many options, features, and plugins. I'm also hoping to make it much easier to share code on the forum. The old forum has been archived and can be reached at the forum menu link on the main menu or on the button at the top right side on the new forums. 

Sorry this took longer than expected. Hopefully I can turn this into a nice community hub for wireless sensor network enthusiasts.


Hi folks.

Just wanted to drop a quick note that I'll be on summer holiday from 8/17 to 8/23/2013. I'll be in Shenzhen taking in the geekery with some friends which will not only provide me with a nice break but also hopefully give me inspiration for my next designs. Sorry for the inconvenience and the shop will be open from 8/23.



A few months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Nami, who works at a company called Loftwork . Loftwork is a design services firm and also the parent company of Fabcafe in Tokyo. She asked me if I wanted to help out with a project in the company to create a Makers group. The main goal of the group was to find DIY solutions to improve the office. They didn’t have a lot of experience in making things themselves so they asked me and a friend of mine, Joe Moross from Safecast, to help out.

One night over a Loftwork dinner that I invited myself to, we were talking about what projects were needed for the group. Nami and the other members proposed an office improvement project to detect when the women’s toilet was occupied. At Loftwork, the majority of the workers are female. On each floor, there’s a one-toilet men’s bathroom and a one-toilet women’s bathroom. Since there are a lot of women working there, the women’s bathroom is often occupied and the girls keep having to get up from their desk, check the toilet, and if its occupied, have to walk back to their desk. Hence, the Loftwork Womens' Toilet Sensor Project was born.

Hi everyone.

I'll be transitioning to a new forum over the next few days and have locked the current forum. Forum spam has gotten out of control and the original forum software I used (Fireboard Forum for Joomla) has very poor controls. When I first started this site, I never considered spam since I barely got any traffic. Since then, traffic has gotten much heavier and I've had to upgrade my hosting account multiple times. The forum transition should be happening this week and it's the start of a site makeover. I'll write a post describing more about it, but suffice it to say I now know what I want in terms of website software whereas things were haphazard when I first started FreakLabs.  More to come later, but sorry for the inconvenience. Forum should be back up by the end of the week.