Whew! Just got back from vacation in the US visiting family and also getting the chance to see the Bay Area Maker Faire for the first time. Actually, it was my first Maker Faire outside of Japan and it blew my mind. The scale of the projects were just on a different level compared to Maker Faire Japan. Projects in Japan are much smaller, mostly because we can’t fit three story fire breathing, steel dragons inside our tiny cramped apartments.

I was on the train coming back from the airport last night when I saw an interesting article at Make Magazine called Why the Maker Movement is Here to Stay. The author, Ken Denmead, discusses an article written on the tech blogging site gigaOm about Sparkfun. Actually, the gigaOm article starts out being about Sparkfun, but towards the end, the author generalizes Sparkfun’s business and business model into the recent surge in popularity of the maker movement. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have thought too deeply about that article except that Ken made some interesting points that got me thinking. In the latter part of the gigaOm article, the author makes an effort to end on a thought provoking note:

"To me, and for others watching the maker movement unfold, SparkFun is a chance to answer what is an important question. How big can the maker movement get?"

Hi everyone.
The FreakLabs store will be on holiday from 05/15/2013 to 06/03/2013 and the shopping cart will be disabled. I'll be traveling to the US to attend Maker Faire and also visit family and friends. I'm really excited since it will be my first Maker Faire and also a welcome holiday for me. Looking forward to the recharge and hopefully to get some new ideas for interesting projects:)
I've had my Casio G-Shock for about 8 years now. In that time, it's run out of batteries on me a few times. The first time, I spoke with a shop and they said they had to send it in to Casio to have the battery replaced. The cost would be around $70 and take about two weeks. I then asked if I could replace it myself and they said it was impossible. I checked on the internet and the batteries are CTL1616 rechargeable Lithium Ion watch batteries. At the time, they were impossible to buy online so the only option was to send it in to Casio. Now, you can get them on eBay and Amazon, but they cost $15/each.

With the workshop closed out, the next two days were reserved for deployment and installation of the sensor nodes. The night before, I had modified the code the participants were using to harden it a bit for an actual deployment. The main thing I added in was a watchdog timer and protection against a few failure scenarios. The main ones I was concerned about were if the software hangs, if it fails to get an IP address, and if it fails to get a connection. I added in an 8 second watchdog timeout for code hangs and also would trigger a reset if the device failed to get an IP address or had a connection failure three consecutive times.

That morning, I had a short meeting with everyone to brief them on what the code changes were and how the deployment would go. I explained the changes I made to the code they worked with and why I made them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time in the labs to cover more advanced topics like watchdog timers, timestamping, and power management. That would need to be saved for future workshops. After the discussion, we packed up our supplies and headed out to the site.


I had one free weekend after arriving at Dharamsala. I contacted Mikey from Air Jaldi, one of the workshop organizers, and he took Jacinta and I around for a site survey and also to discuss the workshop agenda.

The workshop consisted of three major parts. The first part was the actual workshop to teach the participants about sensor networks using Arduino. The second and third parts were actual sensor network deployments at the Tibetan Childrens Village (TCV) and Sarah Tibetan Center for Higher Learning. In both deployments, we’d deploy sonar water level sensors to measure the water level in storage tanks fed by nearby streams, then upload the levels to Cosm servers.

I finally arrived in Delhi, India and the first thing I noticed was that immigration was opulent. I was a bit nervous because I was there on a tourist visa but had a huge amount of wireless electronics in my suitcase. If customs checked me, it’s likely they would have confiscated most of the electronics and rendered the workshop useless. Luckily, they didn’t and I was allowed to proceed to the exit. Customs always freaks me out, mostly because I usually have a lot of strange electronics gear in my suitcase.

It was now about 1am outside of the Indira Gandhi airport in New Delhi and it seems like India hits you like a ton of bricks. The sights, sounds, and smells are all in your face. Taxi drivers were all over the place trying to hustle me into their cabs. The first taxi driver quoted me 1200 rupees (~$24) to get to my airport hotel. After talking to multiple drivers, I got the price down to 400 rupees (~$8). After arriving at my hotel, the guy at the front desk said 200 rupees was on the high side to get to the hotel since it was right next to the airport. That kind of calibrated my expectations which meant that I was in a high ripoff zone. I later found out that it’s to be expected for foreigners in Delhi.

As I'm writing this, I'm waiting at Narita Airport in Tokyo for my flight to Delhi. How I ended up here is kind of interesting.

My New Year's resolution for 2013 was to travel less so that I could get more work done. As soon as the new year started, I was on a plane to Shenzhen to help Bunnie run factory tours of Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. That was an amazing adventure but when I got back to Tokyo, I was far behind schedule on a lot of projects I was working on. On top of that, my funds were running low since I hadn't released a new product in a while. That's another weird story since, looking back at 2012, I actually had close to 20 PCB designs fabbed. None of them were for my webshop though. Apparently all of them were either collaborations (some of those are really interesting and will be saved for another blog post) or made for my own amusement. Ha ha ha.

2013-01-06 - The Beginning

It started out with me, Bunnie, and some other members of Tokyo Hackerspace on one of his trips to Tokyo about six months ago. We were talking about possibly doing a summer hacker train trip across Northern Siberia using the TransSiberian Railway or the Baikal Amur Mainline which runs parallel to it to tour the back country of Russia. This actually turned into an active project and one of the (crazier) girls in Tokyo Hackerspace is organizing the trip for this summer. Here's more info.

Of course we were also getting buzzed off of beers at the izakaya we were at when Bunnie casually mentioned that he might do a month long workshop in Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. The purpose was to teach the grad student designers about how to take their designs to manufacturing. My immediate reflex when I heard "month, shenzhen, manufacturing, bunnie" was to force myself into the project. 

So here I am, prepping to leave for Hong Kong today, then take a bus up into Shenzhen to meet up with Bunnie. He's arranged living apartments for all the participants including myself and Sean Cross (formerly of Chumby) as mentors. The MIT Media Lab students are grad student designers and this is technically an (independent activities period (IAP)) study project. 

The rough schedule is that the first week, we'll be touring different factories in Shenzhen. The confirmed tours are two plastics injection molding shops, a sporting goods factory, an electronics contract manufacturer, and an electronics telecom manufacturer.  The second week, we'll be doing an in-depth tour of the shenzhen marketplaces and discussing components, component selection, and possibly a tour of the South China Fabric City (which I'm really looking forward to). One of my personal goals is to try and map out the Shenzhen marketplace in detail, although I'm not sure how possible this is since the workload is still undefined. 

The third week will be more independent where the students can do whatever they need to further their design/manufacturing projects. Bunnie, Sean, and I will be around to offer advice and help on the design/manufacturability aspects. On the final day of the third week, we'll be having a mini conference with HAXLR8R, SeeedStudio, and Dangerous Prototypes, along with others in the OSHW community out in Shenzhen. 

So this post is mainly to kick off the journal of my experiences as a mentor for the MIT Media Lab IAP2013 in Shenzhen, China. It'll definitely be interesting, and hopefully shed more light on how things work in Shenzhen :)

Happy New Year everybody!

It's been a while since I wrote on my blog. It's unfortunate because last year was extremely rich in new experiences for me. The converse is also true though and it's also been one of my busiest years. I'm still wondering how I could stay so busy and still be broke all the time. Ha ha ha. 

I'd first like to thank everyone that helped contribute to get Hackermoms funded from the very bottom of my heart. What hackermoms is doing is great and my sister Sho Sho was telling me how much it's changed her life, the other mom's lives, and also affecting the lives of the children positively. Now that I see it, it's obvious that all of the creativity overflows into the children's lives and they're constantly creating too. It's wonderful :)

Here are the pics that are included in the FabTile package for the soldering and assembly of the board:

Almost one year ago, I helped raise funds for a new hackerspace called Mothership Hackermoms . It’s an extremely unique hackerspace dedicated to mothers and the challenges they face in terms of schedule, tools, childcare, and of course safety. It’s still difficult to believe that only one year ago, it was largely a glimmer in the eye of a handful of moms. In that year, they were able to successfully acquire a space, spoke at the huge Bay Area Maker Faire, became a pillar in the local maker community, hosted many extremely unique events, and became a refuge, oasis, and an inspiration to many frazzled mothers. 

I had the pleasure of spending a few days with hackermoms last time I was in Oakland visiting my sister (Sho Sho Smith), one of the founders of hackermoms. It was easy to fall in love with the space, people, and of course the children there and I found myself spending quite a bit of time in the playroom with the kids. The things I remember the most are hearing the members talk about how hackermoms changed their life, seeing a huge increase in confidence in my sister, and the fearless approach my 4 year old niece exhibited towards making things (as well as asking me to buy supplies to make those things).  

fabtile scarlett_magenta fabcafe

Captions: [left] Mothership Hackermoms in their space in Berkeley [middle] Me and my two nieces, Scarlett and Magenta. They're regulars at Hackermoms [right] A FabTile workshop at FabCafe