We’ve been wondering exactly how open source CHIP, the $9 computer, is. Turns out, it’s really freaking open! The initial launch of CHIP from the Oakland, California-based Next Thing Co. made big waves a few months back with its capabilities and crazy-low price. Ultimately, the team raised over $2 million […]
Moushira Elamrawy is an Egyptian multidisciplinary designer and technologist based in the city of Cairo and founder of Rishalaser, a new concept for laser cutters that is opensource, portable, DIY, and easy to use. She wrote a piece on iAfrikan about becoming a maker and discovering Arduino. It’s an inspiring text and we want to share it on this blog.
Confession: I used to be an architect (possibly still am!), and then I started tinkering with things.
The architecture engineering school I graduated from did not have a workshop space. The first time I met a CNC router in real life was three years after i graduated.
It is hard to discover what you don’t know even exists. Which is somehow, why I had zero imagination of how those awesome Theo Watson installations could possibly work.
I had no business fiddling with electronics whatsoever. My coding and programming skills were limited to some knowledge of ActionScript, some C, and that was about it.
I read about Openframeworks, installed it, went through examples, tutorials and thought “Nice, I can change parameters that in return would change behavior, fantastic..but ..then..what?!”
By that time, I was an architect working in Morocco, between an office that was based in Fez and a construction site based in a beautiful small southern village close to the Algerian borders, called Mhamid ElGhizlane. It normally took me a little over a day and a half to travel from Fez to the construction site.
I had a radio, which I considered my companion in those interesting border areas. Before Morocco, I was living in Sinai mountains, working on a similar desert development project, where the radio would normally catch signals of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. The Moroccan Sahara, on the other hand, got me signals from Algeria, with lots of different dialects. Radio feels like travelling within time within places. It makes you really feel the distance you crossed.
In May 2012, I attended a beginners workshop for Arduino, lead by Bilal, who was visiting Egypt. During the workshop, I controlled an LED via Arduino.
It was magical.
I never used the board before, I barely understood any syntax, yet in 15 min, I did something cool . . that actually works. Arduino: I am in Love, I thought.
It is easy. It is just that starting alone isn’t easy. Going back home, I went through some examples and I felt oh..I can do stuff. I can do all these stuff actually. Oh, wait, there is also: Processing!
By September 2012, I moved to Barcelona for my masters, which started by a fabrication course in Fablab. I was Alice in wonderland. Then physical computing course started, and Alice’s wonderland was getting more vast.
Everything was awesome. The exact skill set that I wanted to learn. But I needed more, a lot more, time to absorb this whole new world. I thought of taking a gap year, but then, week after week, it turned out that once the ball gets rolling everything is accelerated.
Thanks actually to my sister for pushing me to trust that the ball will get rolling. She herself was moving from translation to graphics design one year before me. It is a family thing.
Arduino was THE treasure.
At the end of the day, all those fantastic surreal systems that I was fascinated by could be done with some components and an Arduino. The amount of associated open source resources is tremendous. The forum is awesome and people actually respond.
Through Arduino, I learned more about microcontrollers, I could program standalone circuits. Then the ball kept rolling, I learned eagle, I can mill some boards, I can solder (err, that was troublesome!), I can interface stuff, I can build sensors, I can work with data, I can build RF sensors, then I became obsessed with antennas, signal processing, and RFID.
I am still learning and learning, but it is much easier now.
Coming from this background, I always go back with time 4 or 5 years ago and recall how I used to react to a “closed box” new technology?
How life would have changed if machine interaction have been made easier, or basically how my life would have changed if machines had the opportunity to step out of their labs and talk to more people.
Making technology more portable and more accessible, is one reason why I started the mobile operated laser cutter project last year, of course, the project would have never been realized without the team that continued with enthusiasm.
Another wonderful project that I just co-started is Jebaleya Talks, with the hope of giving voice to women of Saint Katherine village in Sinai, by introducing them to smart textiles! Well, lets see how this will evolve..
While working in the desert in Sinai, the project foreman was my mentor, his words of wisdom still echo in my ears
“Everything comes along..with patience. If you could just wait”.
Apparently, he had a point!
E-mails are a distraction.
Meetings are boring.
Regular jobs suck your inner clock.
Take a sabbatical and learn what you want to learn and start anew.
At least try.
Oh, and during your sabbatical, give Arduino a try, it might change your life as well.
Let’s just hope that Arduino founders will keep embracing the same energy they started the project with, and that the big whales leave Arduino alone, so that it stays, open and libre just as how it helped liberate many creative energies and minds.
HPSDR - High Performance Software Defined Radio
HPSDR is an open source (GNU type) hardware and software project intended as the "next generation" software-defined radio for radio amateurs and shortwave listeners. It is being developed by a group of software-defined radio enthusiasts around the world, and in a modular hardware fashion to help promote experimentation by both hardware and software developers.
John Melton has held an amateur radio license since 1984 when he was first licensed as N6LYT while living and working in California, and he was assigned the UK callsign of G0ORX on moving back to the UK. He became interested in developing open source software in 1990 with the launch of AMSAT Oscar 16, an amateur radio satellite with a store and forward messaging payload. He developed an open source software package to communicate with the satellite that ran on Linux (pre 1.0) and subsequently wrote an open source fully automated satellite ground station software package in Java. John has been a software engineer since 1970 when he was employed by Burroughs Corporation, and for the last 14 years he has worked for Sun Microsystems who were acquired by Oracle this year.
Open Discussion - Ideas for Future Meetings
Themes, speakers, venues - it's all up for grabs! Have your say and help shape future OSHUG meetings. Offer to present, suggest a speaker or sit quietly until it's time to cross the road to the pub...
Current Cost Bridge - an Arduino based, hackable consumer device
The Current Cost Bridge was developed using the open-source Arduino platform. The reason for using Arduino, was to speed up the development process of the bridge, allowing for fast prototyping and producing a hackable device
Chris Dalby (twitter) is Lead Software Developer at Current Cost Ltd with over 10 years experience in software development and network infrastructure. Chris joined Current Cost in December 2009 to develop desktop and web based software for the Current Cost monitor range.
Concurrency.cc - parallel programming for makers and artists
The concurrency.cc project describes itself as "a group of educators and researchers exploring the development of tools that make parallel programming more accessible to more people. Our hope is that concurrency.cc will serve the community of developers surrounding parallel and concurrent languages on the Arduino and other low-cost embedded platforms."
Adam Sampson is a research associate in the field of concurrent programming and complex systems simulation at the University of Kent. He has enjoyed electronics as a hobby ever since being told off for dismantling the family vacuum cleaner as a small child.
Omer Kilic (twitter) is a research student at the University of Kent working on dynamically reconfigurable architectures and embedded systems. He is passionate about the open-source hardware movement and likes tinkering, so much so that he founded TinkerSoc, The University of Kent Tinkering Society
LilyPad - an Arduino based platform for wearables and e-textiles
The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller, plus a set of sewable electronic components designed so they can be put together to create interactive wearables or textiles based artworks. There is quite a range of components such as LEDS, sensors, buzzer, accelerometer and more that can be connected with conductive thread. The board is based on the ATmega168V/328Vand was designed and developed by Leah Buechley and SparkFun Electronics.
Rain Ashford (twitter) is Senior Producer at BBC Learning where she is presently across the BBC's Media Literacy supertopic portal. During her 10 years at the BBC she has developed and produced many of the BBC's high priority sites and online activities. Passionate about technology, she recently started a Women in Technology network for her colleagues to discuss careers, training, raising their profile and encouraging women to look at careers in tech. She previously worked for BBC R&D as a Technologist where she worked on the groundbreaking R&DTV project and the BBC's developer network, BBC Backstage, she's a hardware hacker, coder, artist, gamer and blogger.
Free and open source software is mainstream. Free and open hardware isn't.
Andrew is increasingly involved in open hardware, and considers what, if anything, is different about hardware which makes open projects a challenge, and whether it is possible to construct a licence, like the GPL, which has a copyleft element applicable to hardware.
Andrew Katz is a partner at Moorcrofts LLP, a boutique law firm in England's Thames Valley and advises a wide range of businesses on free and open source related issues. He has lectured and published widely on the subject and is a founder editor of the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review. Before becoming a solicitor, he trained as a barrister, and moonlighted as a programmer during his studies at Bar School, programming in Turbo Pascal. He has released software under the GPL.
Pay It Forward — Alturistic 3D Printing
Last Monday was the last time I’ll be leading Circuit Hacking Monday at Noisebridge for several weeks. It was lots of fun! There were almost 40 people there, making TV-B-Gones, Trippy RGB Waves, Arduino clone kits, and other cool kits that I created to teach people how to make things with electronics. Several people learned to solder for the first time! Some people brought in their own cool projects to work on. And some people brought in their old, broken electronics that are now working again, thanks to the helpful geeks at Noisebridge.
While I’m gone, Miloh will be leading Circuit Hacking Monday workshops.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be traveling the planet, giving talks and workshops everywhere I go: Lisbon, Singapore, Berlin, NYC, Boston, and hopefully other places out East where I’ll be visiting (Philly, Baltimore, DC).
I’ll be gone till the beginning of February!