Monthly Archives: June 2021

SparkFun Hooks a Patent Troll

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Any long time SparkFun reader may know that we really enjoy writing about the whacking legal entanglements that we get into. Whether it’s cease and desist letters from Sparc International, tossing out 4,000 DMMs, or dealing with counterfeit ICs. Unfortunately, now it’s time we talk about patent trolls.

Since a few of my international friends looked at me funny when I mentioned it, a patent troll is a company that is specifically set up to purchase the rights to a handful of patents and then sue anyone they feel they can get money from.

Patent trolls are Americans that are destroying American manufacturing and small business. I've got heaps of challenges when it comes to SparkFun but patent trolls are what keep me up at night. SparkFun knows how to manufacture in America, and we've created tons of new open source products, but patent trolls can come out of nowhere and do real harm. It's legalized extortion. There’s a few forms of this so let’s first talk about ransoming. SparkFun has received a few of these over the years. Let’s have a look at a passive one from Feinberg Day:

Patent Troll - Ransom Trick - Feinberg Day

An almost nice ransoming from Feinberg Day

Sal is basically saying ‘Hey there. We noticed you have a website. We have patents that deal with websites. We’ve managed to (supposedly) shake-down Foot Locker and Northern Tool. You should probably call us to discuss this.”

It’s sort of like scam phone calls. If you answer your phone at all, they know there’s a human there and your phone number is now more valuable to other scammers. If you actually call Sal, they’ll know you’re paying attention and worried. The best solution to this type of troll is to ignore it.

Patent Troll - Ransom Trick - Garteiser Honea

Say it with me: RazDog!

RazDog takes it up a notch. Sorry, but I just can’t take RazDog seriously. Just saying ‘RazDog’ makes me giggle. But in this type of patent ransoming they put in a ticking clock. If you respond in two weeks it’s $49,284. If you delay it’s $54,284 so you’d better call now! Again, the best solution is to ignore it.

If you ever find yourself down the rabbit hole of patent trolls you will likely never find the bottom. Gag orders are used thoroughly by trolls to prevent anyone from talking about settlements.

Monday Morning Patent Troll text

Not what you want to read on a Monday morning

Which brings us to Monday morning. My good friend, who happens to be a powerhouse of a trademark attorney, sent me the above text message. She is super nice and I think has some alerts for ‘SparkFun’ in place so she can keep an eye out for me. She was letting me know we were being sued by someone called Altair Logix. More on them in a minute but I’d like to point out that

  1. As of Wednesday June 30th, we have not received any paperwork or been notified of the lawsuit.
  2. I’ve already received two spam emails from unknown law firms letting me know I’m being sued and wanting to represent me.

So imagine you’re a small business that designs and manufactures stuff. And you start being told you’re being sued. You’ve got to focus on building things, keeping the lights on, and keeping people employed. It’s terrifying. In fact, I’m still paranoid about even writing this blog post. We’re really poking a stick at Feinberg, RazDog, and Altair Logix here. These firms could potentially bring a tremendous amount of pain against SparkFun. But we think it's far more important to pull back the curtain on questionable and unethical business practices. Let’s return to Altair Logix.

Altair Logix is located in Frisco, Texas. Texas and patent trolls immediately remind me of the excellent This American Life episode “When Patents Attack”. It’s a great listen and goes far more in depth of the overall patent troll issue. This entity, I'm now calling Al, doesn’t seem to build anything. They don’t really do R&D. I’m hard pressed to even locate a website or contact information for Al. But Al does seem to enjoy suing people: Texas Instruments, Coolpad Technologies, VIA Technologies, Renesas, ASUS, Caterpillar, Nuvision International, Netgear, Lynx Innovation, … oh my! Let’s add SparkFun to that list of people being sued.

Altair Logix v. SparkFun

Altair Logix v. SparkFun

Al is claiming that they have patent number 6289434 which they quickly start referring to as patent ‘434. Can I tell you how humorous it is that an attorney feels it necessary to shorten a 7-digit number to a 4 character abbreviation? Thanks Al. That really saves me some time.

US patent 6289434

Patent US6289434

Patent 6289434 was written in 1998 and granted in 2001. I’ll start by pointing out that patents are valid for 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed or 2018, but I’m no patent attorney. You are welcome to read all 93 pages of it but it’s laughable. I don’t know the original authors Rupan Roy or the Cognigine Corporation; perhaps they thought that a ‘Media Processing Unit’ was really novel in 1998. Today, it’s not.

Make believe Media Processing Unit

Make believe Media Processing Unit

There’s lots of official looking diagrams in this patent. If you ignore the fancy ‘media processor’ jargon, the image above shows a multi-core processor. These are not telling or descriptive or even helpful diagrams; they are fluff.

An SPI Interaction made to look official

An SPI Interaction made to look official

Oh look! It’s a diagram of a SPI interaction with interrupts! (If this doesn’t make sense to you, just know that SPI transfers move data between your SD card and anything that uses an SD card - they are omnipresent).

There is no such thing as a MAU

There is no such thing as a MAU

The goal of patent 6289434 is to take something the embedded systems industry is built on (in this case ALUs or Arithmetic Logic Unit) and change the terminology so that it’s “new”. In the above image the ALU that we use all the time is coupled with something called a MAU which I don’t even have the time to decrypt the meaning of. It’s bullshit. MAUs don’t exist. The mixup of jargon is meant to be thick and confusing so that people who have less technical experience get worried. Why hire lots of expensive lawyers and field experts to fight when I could just settle and get back to building things? Because that only makes more little trolls.

The Altair Logix v Sparkfun Lawsuit

The Altair Logix v Sparkfun Lawsuit

Let’s move on to the lawsuit. The fun starts around page 6. Al claims:

The cost is further reduced by employing only static or dynamic ram as a means for holding the state of the system. This invention provides a way for effectively adapting the configuration of the circuit to varying input data and processing requirements. (Id. at col. 3:6-8). All of this reconfiguration can take place dynamically in run-time without any degradation of performance over fixed-function implementations. (Id. at col. 3:8-11).

Dynamic ram? Can I poke fun at them for not knowing what RAM is? Yes I can.

The above paragraph succinctly describes malloc() which is perhaps one of the most fundamental advancements in modern computing. The problem is that Al didn’t invent it. Memory management (the ability to take RAM and then give it back when your function is done) goes back to the dawn of computing. The use of malloc() and carefully tending to your RAM is pervasive in embedded systems. I literally just wrote a routine this morning for the ESP32 that throttles Bluetooth traffic because my heap was running out of space. They got a patent on memory allocation? Yea. Sure they did.

The present invention is therefore an apparatus for adaptively dynamically reconfiguring groups of computations and storage elements in run-time to process multiple separate streams of data and control at varying rates. (Id. at col. 3:14-18). The ‘434 patent refers to the aggregate of the dynamically reconfigurable computational and storage elements as a “media processing unit.”

Once you get over the words that have obviously not been written by an embedded engineer, the lawsuit is describing variable length arrays. You can slap your “media processing unit” sticker all over it, but it’s just a malloc() call.

  1. Direct Infringement. Upon information and belief, Defendant has been directly infringing claim of the ‘434 patent in Colorado, and elsewhere in the United States, by making, using, selling, and/or offering for sale an apparatus for processing data for media processing that satisfies each and every limitation of claim 1, including without limitation the Sparkfun’s sale of the pcDuino Acadia Dev Board (“Accused Instrumentality”). (E.g.,

Wait wait wait. You’re suing us over the pcDuino from 2016? We stopped selling that board in 2017. Nothing against pcDuino, it was a neat little single board computer for its time but of all the products we sell you pick that board? Why? I suspect it has something to do with Al's previous wins against companies unfortunate enough to use a processor that used the term ‘media’ in their datasheets. Or perhaps it was the approximate date that had data on SparkFun’s website. It’s 2016 - their patent doesn’t expire until 2018...

Can I also just say how amazing the Web Archive is. Their Wayback Machine is incredibly fun but their mission and what they are attempting to preserve is critical for future generations to understand how our digital world changed over time. The fact that Al is using them is just a taint on a good cause.

  1. Plaintiff has been damaged as a result of Defendant’s infringing conduct. Defendant is thus liable to Plaintiff for damages in an amount that adequately compensates Plaintiff for such Defendant’s infringement of the ‘434 patent, i.e., in an amount that by law cannot be less than would constitute a reasonable royalty for the use of the patented technology, together with interest and costs as fixed by this Court under 35 U.S.C. § 284.

So what does Al want? If patent 6289434 is to be found legitimate (which it is not), they want royalties. Now, there is something to be said here about what I call the ‘American Patent Dream’. It goes something like this:

  1. I come up with a phenomenal idea that no one has had before.
  2. I patent that idea.
  3. I never have to lift a finger and just enjoy cashing my royalty checks from the beach.

You can see the flaws. I am a big believer in Open Source Hardware but I do not believe that the entire patent system is trash. If SparkFun was infringing on actual IP, from a company that was actually building something, I would work very hard to not step on their toes. Al is not building anything. They just want to sit on their beach in Texas.

We’ve sold 221 units over the entire time we carried the pcDuino. You want to sue us for $500 worth of made-up royalties to use your bogus patent? Sure. Come get it.

What can you do about Patent Trolls?

Talk about it if you can. We are not the only small business that has to deal with this but we are in a rare situation where we may be able to talk about it. If you have been sued or received a ransom letter, talk about it! Trolls win when we're too scared to talk.

Email your representatives. Senators and Congress people do listen to the communication they receive. Email Governor Polis (who is a big supporter of patent reform and fights against patent trolls). Let them know that patent trolls are Americans that are destroying American manufacturing and small business. Trolls are terrible for the economy, destroy jobs, gum up the judicial system, and hinder innovation.

Work with smarter people than me. Tell your politician to listen to and work with groups like the EFF and Patent Progress who have spent years working on good solutions to trolls like Al.

We’ll let you know how the suit goes. We’re pretty sure it’ll be a fight, but no matter what, I’ve got to get back to actually creating something in this world.

comments | comment feed

Machine Learning made easy with Raspberry Pi, Adafruit and Microsoft

via Raspberry Pi

Machine learning can sound daunting even for experienced Raspberry Pi hobbyists, but Microsoft and Adafruit Industries are determined to make it easier for everyone to have a go. Microsoft’s Lobe tool takes the stress out of training machine learning models, and Adafruit have developed an entire kit around their BrainCraft HAT, featuring Raspberry Pi 4 and a Raspberry Pi Camera, to get your own machine learning project off to a flying start.

adafruit lobe kit
Adafruit developed this kit especially for the BrainCraft HAT to be used with Microsoft Lobe on Raspberry Pi

Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT

Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT fits on top of Raspberry Pi 4 and makes it really easy to connect hardware and debug machine learning projects. The 240 x 240 colour display screen also lets you see what the camera sees. Two microphones allow for audio input, and access to the GPIO means you can connect things likes relays and servos, depending on your project.

Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT in action detecting a coffee mug

Microsoft Lobe

Microsoft Lobe is a free tool for creating and training machine learning models that you can deploy almost anywhere. The hardest part of machine learning is arguably creating and training a new model, so this tool is a great way for newbies to get stuck in, as well as being a fantastic time-saver for people who have more experience.

Get started with one of three easy, medium, and hard tutorials featured on the lobe-adafruit-kit GitHub.

This is just a quick snippet of Microsoft’s full Lobe tutorial video.
Look how quickly the tool takes enough photos to train a machine learning model

‘Bakery’ identifies and prices different pastries

Lady Ada demonstrated Bakery: a machine learning model that uses an Adafruit BrainCraft HAT, a Raspberry Pi camera, and Microsoft Lobe. Watch how easy it is to train a new machine learning model in Microsoft Lobe from this point in the Microsoft Build Keynote video.

A quick look at Bakery from Adafruit’s delightful YouTube channel

Bakery identifies different baked goods based on images taken by the Raspberry Pi camera, then automatically identifies and prices them, in the absence of barcodes or price tags. You can’t stick a price tag on a croissant. There’d be flakes everywhere.

Extra functionality

Running this project on Raspberry Pi means that Lady Ada was able to hook up lots of other useful tools. In addition to the Raspberry Pi camera and the HAT, she is using:

  • Three LEDs that glow green when an object is detected
  • A speaker and some text-to-speech code that announces which object is detected
  • A receipt printer that prints out the product name and the price

All of this running on Raspberry Pi, and made super easy with Microsoft Lobe and Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT. Adafruit’s Microsoft Machine Learning Kit for Lobe contains everything you need to get started.

full adafruit lobe kit
The full Microsoft Machine Learning Kit for Lobe with Raspberry Pi 4 kit

Watch the Microsoft Build keynote

And finally, watch Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott introduce Limor Fried, aka Lady Ada, owner of Adafruit Industries. Lady Ada joins remotely from the Adafruit factory in Manhattan, NY, to show how the BrainCraft HAT and Lobe work to make machine learning accessible.

The post Machine Learning made easy with Raspberry Pi, Adafruit and Microsoft appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

A Continuously Sprouting Project: ML in Crop Quality and Environmental Tracking

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Some projects are built for a singular purpose, like turning on lighting strips to the beat of music, or roasting a hot dog via a sundial. But there are also the projects that are extendable - the ones where you realize that it could actually have a couple of use cases! These types of projects could solve maybe two or three challenges simultaneously, like a machine learning model that could use a camera to count skittles and count cards. And then there’s the over achiever projects that could be effective in half a dozen use cases, all within the same framework. Sumit with Team TensorCrop has built one of those projects, and on top of that it aims to solve real world challenges, ranging from assisting in farming, to tracking wildfires or illegal logging, and it’s all done through environmental sensing and audio analysis.

alt text

His project utilizes the RedBoard Artemis ATP (with the on-board microphone) to conduct ML audio analyses with a variety of use cases.

SparkFun RedBoard Artemis ATP

SparkFun RedBoard Artemis ATP


One example could be detecting harmful or beneficial organisms for plants; Sumit gives the example that flowers listen for bees, and it helps make their nectar sweeter. Another use case is detecting specific frequencies for wood cutting tools to determine if illegal logging is occurring. Sumit also took advantage of the SparkFun Environmental Combo Breakout to encourage lower use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, and instead to take advantage of ML models to determine abnormalities in crop growth and photosynthesis rate.

SparkFun Environmental Combo Breakout - CCS811/BME280 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Environmental Combo Breakout - CCS811/BME280 (Qwiic)


Even though the dataset he used for audio was downloaded from Kaggle, he didn't directly download the audio data onto the microcontroller - he rerecorded it with the Artemis microphone so that the device itself could actually run inference. He used a Python script to stream audio from the Artemis Apollo3 microphone, and then used an audio splitter to split audio files into one-second increments so that they could be trained on the Artemis board.

alt text

The audio training entails labeling the the data; in Sumit's case the wanted sounds would be "aedes, anopheles, culex, bee, chainsaw," as seen in his code.

alt text

Ultimately, once the training is finished, the model is converted into a lite model so that it can be deployed on an edge device.

Much like a sunflower, the sky is the limit for Sumit and this project. He aims to track the height of plants, develop systems using servos to cover plants in the event that CO2, temperature and light aren't enough to encourage healthy growth, and measure environmental data to notify surrounding people if there may be a fire.

It's a good reminder for all of us that most projects can be extended or repurposed to solve dozens of other problems, whether that's in our own lives or affecting the globe. So pick up an old project this week and see how you can tweak it slightly to solve an entirely different challenge, and happy hacking!

comments | comment feed

Celebrating the community: Zaahra and Eesa

via Raspberry Pi

Today we are launching an exciting series of impact stories from the community, to shine a spotlight on some of the young people who are learning and creating with technology through our educational initiatives.

A sister and brother smiling while doing digital making at a laptop
Zaahra and Eesa have been learning to create technology through attending Code Club and taking part in Coolest Projects!

These stories get to the heart of our mission: to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world.

Designed in close collaboration with families across the world, our new series of short inspirational films showcases some of the wonderful things that young people are empowered to do when they learn to use technology to address the issues that matter to them.

We are incredibly proud to be a part of these young people’s journeys — and to see the positive impact of engaging with our free programmes, coding clubs, and resources. We can’t wait to share their unique experiences and achievements with you as we roll out the series over the next few months.

And we invite you to celebrate these young people by liking and sharing their stories on social media!

Meet Zaahra and Eesa 

The first story takes you to a place not far from our home: London, UK.

Help us celebrate Zaahra and Eesa by liking and sharing their story on Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook!

Zaahra (12) and Eesa (8) are a sister and brother coding team and live in East London. For the last four years they’ve been learning about computing and digital making by attending regular sessions at their local Code Club. Zaahra and Eesa love working as a team and using technology to solve problems around them. When they found it difficult to communicate with their grandparents in their first language, Sylheti, the siblings decided to code a language learning app called ‘Easy Sylheti’. Eesa says, “We wanted to create something that was helpful to us, but also to our family and the community.”

A girl and boy standing on the grass in a park

When Zaahra and Eesa decided to take part in the Coolest Projects online tech showcase with their app, they never expected that it would be picked as a favourite by Coolest Projects special judge Eben Upton, CEO and co-inventor of Raspberry Pi!

“I’ve discovered that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought.”


Describing the effect of learning to create with technology and seeing the success of their app, Zaahra declares, “I’ve discovered that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought.” And she’s using her new-found confidence to continue helping her community: Zaahra has recently taken up a role as youth member on the Newham Youth Empowerment Fund Panel.

Help us celebrate Zaahra and Eesa by liking and sharing their story on Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook!

The post Celebrating the community: Zaahra and Eesa appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Meet Simone Giertz: Inventor, robotics enthusiast, and YouTuber

via Raspberry Pi

Even if you don’t follow Simone Giertz on social media or YouTube, there’s a good chance you know of her work. Originally hailed as the Queen of Shitty Robots, Simone’s early videos of questionable contraptions, such as the Toothbrush Machine and Hair Washing Robot, quickly went viral, birthing a variety of GIFs and shareable content that quickly took over the internet. But, nowadays, she’s shelved her bots and focuses her attention on more reliable projects, such as her highly successful crowdfunding campaign for The Every Day Calendar, and the impressive Truckla, a Tesla pickup truck that beat Elon Musk’s Cybertruck to the post when shared online in June 2019.

Looks like it works fine to me

Alex Bate caught up with Simone Giertz (pronounced Yetch, not Gerts) to discuss how she went from unreliable robots and GIF stardom to bunk-beds made of leaves and office chair sidecars for needy pets, and why her openly discussed brain tumour helped to realign her business model.  

A career of two halves

HS  To me, as a viewer, it feels like your YouTube career is split into two halves. There’s Simone, the Queen of Shitty Robots, and then there’s everything post-surgery, like Truckla and The Every Day Calendar. Do you see it too?

SG  The difficult part about YouTube, and also the good side of it, is that if you have a really long career, you grow up during that career, and you change and your interests change. And I don’t want to just play a role, I want to be genuinely excited about the things I do – you get sick of things, and you want to explore new things. So, in order to do that, I’ve really tried to be ‘theme agnostic’ for my YouTube channel. 

And that was something that was really hard with Shitty Robots, because it was something that I knew that people really liked, and that I had a level of success with. But I was just not that excited about it anymore. And I think the brain tumour became a really good page turner for me, because I had such limited energy capital, you know, and I really just wanted to spend my time and my very limited energy on doing things that I was super-pumped about.

I think the projects I build now still have some elements of the stuff I did in my early days, but they’re definitely less GIF-compatible.

In the beginning, all I was thinking about for every project was a GIF. That was the main deliverable that I had in my head, and the main piece of content that I focused on, and then I kind of built a YouTube video around it, and around the process of creating this GIF. And I let go of that. Not every project needs to have a punchline. It can be fine. It can be a little bit more dull.

But, I still feel guilty about it.

HS  Really?

SG  Yeah. People are very sweet about it, but I still get comments with people being like, ’Oh, I miss the Shitty Robots.’ But, at the same time, you have to think, ’It’s my life, and I really want to do the things I want to do.’ And I’m also so drawn to my product business and wanting to focus on that. And the way that my YouTube channel can co-exist with that is for me to explore different products and make videos about them. And it’s actually becoming a pretty good tag team.

Kickstarter success

HS  Talking about your product business, the biggest one to date was obviously The Every Day Calendar. 2300-odd backers, and over half a million dollars raised. How did you feel when your first Kickstarter just soared like that?

SG  It was fun and scary. Because, as somebody who’s terrified of disappointing people, crowdfunding campaigns are kind of like the worst position to put yourself in because you really risk disappointing people. But, I don’t think we did. I mean, we were late, but I really just wanted to deliver a good product because it was expensive. And, yes, we raised over half a million dollars, but it’s not until now that we’ve actually broken even.

HS  Wow.

simone giertz everyday calendar
Simone surrounded by The Every Day Calendar

SG  It’s so expensive. And so much of that is in product development. When it comes down to it, and you’re actually putting something out in the world, it’s just crazy how much it costs. And I mean, we probably didn’t do it in the most efficient way we could, because we were rookies. But, it was definitely very humbling and terrifying.

HS  Would you do further products with Kickstarter? Or do you think you’re now at a point where you would just create a product and sell it, and not have to rely on crowdfunding?

SG  We’re hopefully launching our store this summer, and we’re going to have four different products in it. And, I’m hoping that any easier products can be self-funded. And, if there’s something more complicated, like the Companion Chair, which is definitely going to be a bigger project, it might end up being crowdfunded because with funding, you also get market testing. You can get a lot out of it. But, that said, after I did The Every Day Calendar, I remember saying I’d never do it again. Every night at 3 am, I would just wake up and be like, ’Oh my god, what if we send out the calendars and then, in two years, all of them stop working! People are going to be really angry.’ I’m scared of that. But, I guess that also, even if customers are buying your product off the shelf, you are always going to live with that fear over your head.

Simone Giertz

The early days

HS  It’s really interesting to go back and watch your earliest videos, particularly the first one in Swedish, and see how far you’ve come. Was it always the aim to start the business? To have staff and be opening an online store and selling your products?

SG  I mean, no, I would definitely be lying if I said that this is some sort of master plan. There was no scheming where I had the large whiteboard – ’This is the trajectory of how I’m going to become known as the Queen of Shitty Robots. And then I’m going to pivot that into running a product business.’ I’m definitely not that smart. 

But, I had an inkling of what I was interested in. And I mean, I really liked making videos. And I think that everything kind of happened in a very fortunate way. Because I had this job where I was a Maker in Residence at a US company called Punch Through Design. And my job was just to build different things. And right when my job there was ending, I posted the Toothbrush Helmet, and that started getting some traction. I was moving back to Sweden because my visa expired, and I just had this year of living with my mom again, and having very few expenses and I was like, ’OK, I’m gonna just make sure I work enough to get by, but then the rest of the time, I’m just gonna spend it on building these machines that I want to build.’

So I was very fortunate in the way that I could structure things so I was able to spend time on my YouTube channel in the early days.

But, it’s also so easy to look back and be like, ’Of course, all these things led me to where I am today.’ But when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just flailing. And my flailing, fortunately, landed me in a position that I’m very happy with today.

Commander Scraps the canine sidekick

[It’s at this point of the conversation that Simone’s three-legged canine sidekick, Commander Scraps, decides to join us. Those who have seen Simone’s build video for the Companion Chair or Lego-based Dog Selfie Booth will already know of Scraps. Those who haven’t, well, Scraps is adorable, so you should definitely check them out.] 

Simone Giertz and dog
Scraps is first and foremost a dog, but he’s also the brains behind Simone’s Companion Chair

Creative freedom

HS  Some online content creators are often stuck within a theme – wood working, electronics, 3D printing, and so on. But, for you, it seems that you’re the theme, you’re the brand, and you can get away with creating whatever content you want. Do you see that when you interact with your community? That freedom?

SG  It’s something that I thought a lot about in the early days, like, how much is the channel about me and my life? And how much is it about the things that I build? And I think what I struggled with is that I’m not that interested in my life. Like, I really want to make videos that I myself would want to watch. I’m not really interested in vlogs, so I decided early on that while it’s about my life to an extent, it’s still centred around these projects I’m building.

In some ways, I’m pretty private on the internet, but also very open, like when it comes to brain tumour stuff. I was really open about it, and I wanted to tell everyone about it because it was a way for me to process what was happening. I remember having to tell myself that I had to stop telling waiters or Uber drivers that I had a brain tumour. ’Hi sweetie, how are you today? Well, I have a brain tumour, but other than that, I’m pretty good.’

When it came to talking about it online, it was a no-brainer. Haha.

But then there’s other stuff that I don’t talk about, like, I don’t really document my life. I don’t talk about my friends really, or my relationship status, or anything like that. Because you have to draw the line somewhere. And I always felt like documenting my life was just too intrusive.

Simone Giertz
Don’t ask

Queen of Shitty Robots

HS  When you look at your most popular videos on your channel, even though you’re known as the Queen of Shitty Robots, those videos aren’t actually in the Top 5. Instead, it’s the video of you in the zero gravity simulations, and Truckla, and locking yourself in your bathroom for 48 hours. It’s interesting that the thing you’re most known for isn’t the thing your audience is most interacting with.

SG  Those Shitty Robot videos mostly did really well on other platforms, like Twitter and Reddit. Not so much on YouTube because it has its own metrics and algorithms. 

The thing that is really useful for other creators who are getting started is to figure out what is your hook, or what is the very simple version of what you’re doing. Like, Queen of Shitty Robots kind of became the headline. And it was this very clear message, and it was something that was really easy for journalists to write about. It was a spearhead for branding.

This was not something I was thinking about at the time, but looking back, my fear then was to make sure I didn’t get pigeonholed, and that I could never move on from it, because that’s the problem when people only know you for one thing – you can’t really move on beyond that. It’s really nice to have that spearhead, and then you can broaden it, and that’s how you have longevity.

I didn’t want this to be over in a year. I wanted to be able to keep on doing it because I was really enjoying it. And now, I want to make sure that I have more legs to stand on, because when you’re going through health problems, you realise that if you can’t be in front of a camera, everything grinds to a halt. If you’re not well enough to work, or if YouTube changes its algorithm, it becomes such a fragile business structure. So, that was one of the reasons why I decided I needed to go into products. 

Simone Giertz

HS  I guess you can’t really be known as the Queen of Shitty Robots where everything you make doesn’t really do what it’s meant to do, and then expect people to buy serious products from you and trust they’ll work.

SG  That’s definitely one of the things when we launched The Every Day Calendar – I was wondering how are people going to be able to take this seriously? But, I think that’s what’s really nice, that my audience has been around long enough and they’ve seen that there’s more to it than that – there’s actually, ironically, a lot of work that goes into making Shitty Robots.

Collaborative community

HS  I remember the first time I saw your work was when you collaborated with Adam Savage to make an automated popcorn machine in 2016. It’s a great video that really highlights how great collaborative work can be when two people focus on what they’re really interested in to make a final product. And you’ve worked on other videos with creators such as Laura Kampf. Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?

SG  I’m really interested in people who are kind of beyond the community that I’m currently in. It would be really fun to do stuff with musical artists; I’d love to collaborate with OK Go. Or venture beyond that and work with people who make art, and fashion designers. People who are outside the world where I’m creating. And there are people that I just love and would always want to work with, like Laura. She’s the sweetest, most talented, down-to-earth and funny person. I really love working with her. I should really think of who’s on my bucket list.

Something I’ve really missed during the pandemic is just getting to spend time with people who are excited about what they’re doing, and having that excitement rub off on me. There’s nothing more inspiring than someone being  pumped about something, even if you don’t understand what it is. In some ways, lockdown has been great for creating as I’ve had more time to loiter in the shop, but I definitely miss that input and just being able to talk to people.

A surprisingly interesting video, despite the title

Secret new ideas…

HS  And are there any projects you’d like to build that you just haven’t gotten around to doing yet?

SG  Honestly, I just want to build stuff for my house right now, which I know isn’t the most interesting answer. I still have the CEO Bouncy Chair on my list – I want to make this kids’ bouncy chair, the type where you’re almost in some sort of plastic diaper. But I want it to look like a mahogany desk with a Rolodex and it’s for grown-ups. And make some spoof commercial for it when it’s marketed as an exercise device, but there’s just some balding white guy in it. I think that’s the only one that I’m still eager to build. Let me look at my notes…

[Simone proceeds to pull out her phone and list project ideas from the notes app. Should I tell you what they are or should I leave them as a surprise? With great power comes great responsibility!]

HS  Those are definitely some interesting ideas…

[I’m very responsible].

Check out Simone’s TED Talk

HS  Going back to your audience, you seem to have been somewhat spared a lot of the negativity people receive in comments, and online in general. Why do you think that is?

SG  I’m just always so scared. Haha. I’ve been spared from the trolls and the hate, and I’m just terrified of ruining whatever equilibrium is happening right now. That’s one of the reasons I post so seldomly. I was looking the other day and thought, ’Oh, it’s been 45 days since I last posted on Instagram!’, and I notice I keep getting DMs from people asking if I’m OK. I’m just always scared to overstep, or do something that would upset people, or cause me to fall from some sort of pedestal. I just never want to post something that doesn’t work for other people, you know?

Simone gives a great interview here

Inspirational YouTubers

HS  I get it. The comments section of YouTube alone can be an awful place sometimes. Speaking of YouTube, are there any other makers at the moment who are inspiring you?

SG  I love 3×3 Custom. She’s my happy place because she’s at a level of making that I’m just not at. Her jig work is just wild, and the quality she puts out. And I love Nicole McLaughlin. She does these really fun and weird fashion contraptions, like shoes made out of tennis balls. She’s very cool. She’s a level of coolness that I aspire to and never expect to get to.

But, one of the most inspiring things for me is time. And I know that if I run out of ideas, it’s because I’m overworked and I haven’t had enough downtime and time to just loiter in the shop. I try to enforce this on Fridays, where me and my teammates just work on whatever project, and it doesn’t have to be work-related. And some of my best ideas have come from that type of work, where I don’t know what my end goal with this is, but I’m just going to tinker with it for a little bit.

Simone was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert!

You can follow Simone on Instagram for behind-the-scenes photos of her project, and subscribe to her YouTube channel for new content. Also, because why wouldn’t you, you can follow Scraps on Instagram too! 

Issue 44 of HackSpace magazine is on sale NOW!

Each month, HackSpace magazine brings you the best projects, tips, tricks and tutorials from the makersphere. You can get it from the Raspberry Pi Press online store or your local newsagents.

HackSpace 44 cover

As always, every issue is free to download from the HackSpace magazine website.

The post Meet Simone Giertz: Inventor, robotics enthusiast, and YouTuber appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Friendship is Cryptographic

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Happy Friday, everyone! This week, we have three new products that we've been excited to launch, starting with the new SparkFun Cryptographic Development Kit. This is a simple kit that provides everything you need to secure your next IoT project or idea (it also uses the ATECC508A, so you won't need to sign an NDA to use it)! Following that, we have a new version of our Qwiic Air Quality Sensor - this one improves the SGP30 to the new SGP40. We round out the week with a new wireless version of the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4.

It's been a bit. Welcome back, product videos!

SparkFun Cryptographic Development Kit

SparkFun Cryptographic Development Kit


With the SparkFun Cryptographic Development Kit you will get everything you need to learn the fundamentals of cryptographic authentication and how to use the ATECC508A Cryptographic Co-Processor Breakout with the Artemis RedBoard to add a soaring level of security to your projects.

SparkFun Air Quality Sensor - SGP40 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Air Quality Sensor - SGP40 (Qwiic)


The SparkFun SGP40 Air Quality Sensor provides a measurement of the quality of the air in your room or house. The SGP40 is based on Sensirion's CMOSens® technology and uses a metal oxide (MOx) sensor with a temperature controlled micro hotplate and provides a humidity-compensated volatile organic compound (VOC) based indoor air quality signal. Both the sensing element and VOC Algorithm feature an unmatched robustness against contaminating gases present in real world applications enabling a unique long term stability as well as low drift and device to device variation.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 32GB (Wireless Version) - 2GB RAM

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 32GB (Wireless Version) - 2GB RAM


The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 represents a huge change for the Compute Module line. The biggest change being the move from the DDR2 SODIMM connector form factor to a high density connector on the bottom of the board. But true to the line, the Compute Module 4 packs all the best features of the Raspberry Pi Model B 4 into a more favorable form-factor for embedded or OEM applications. This model has 2GB of LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM and 32GB of eMMC Flash storage along with the wireless capability (2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 5.0)

That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made! Please be safe out there, be kind to one another, and we'll see you next week with even more new products!

Never miss a new product!

comments | comment feed