Planned Event: Embedded Programming; Fun with Boards

Image courtesy of MadLab

Farset Labs is planning on running an event to introduce any person of any age to embedded programming; spanning from building your own controller board that you can take home, right up to programming it with some basic functionality. But we want to get the community’s opinion before we set anything in stone.

Please, take a minute of your time to fill out this survey so we can make the best event for you. Continue reading Planned Event: Embedded Programming; Fun with Boards

Chalkboard Codes

The final code. Try it - it works!

After the final touches to our massive blackboard were completed in the event space, and after

the initial rush of impulse drawing had subsided, two members jointly decided to have a go at something more interesting. Myself and Daniel Reid used a kindly-donated projector and a packet of white chalk, coupled with a helping of patience to fashion a door-sized QR code right in the middle of the giant blackboard.

Initially, it didn’t work, with the contrast between the thin chalk and deep black surround too low to help our phone camera do its part at decoding. A quick glance at the QR specifications made the modifications easy to conduct; as soon as the lock-on points in the corners were detected by the phone, the code scanned perfectly.

It showed two previously-clueless people the inner workings of the codes, and some plans have been formed for some artistic decals for the event space walls along the lines of the QR codes. The rest of the blackboard is still occupied by the ever-growing mass of colourful scribbles.

Paint It Black: This Weeks Updates

That time when we foolishly handed tins of blackboard paint to some of our more enthusiastic members...

Things move quickly here at Farset Towers ^H^H^H^H^H Labs.

Twenty four hours ago, we had nothing special happening soon and no real ‘pattern’ of events. We hadn’t made any real changes to the space other than the brilliant work that the Weavers Court contractors have done to get the space up to spec.

First big change was the news that SpringUp, an innovative incubation event similar to Y-combinator on speed, had lost its previous venue. In the spirit of community (and PR) we’ve opened up our event space to them (in addition to our existing prize sponsorship of six months membership for the winning team), but as you can see below, the main presentation wall wasn’t exactly in the best condition to present on. But that idea was left on the back burner for a while.

Before (judge for yourselves)

After the inital chat confirming Farset Labs as the SpringUp venue, we received confirmation of hosting this months #BLOC54 Games Development Network Meeting. Later we got word of the 2nd Global StackOverflow Meetup Day, and after a short discussion, decided to host the previously homeless Belfast chapter

Back to the Black, after a short discussion, a few Facebook and Twitter posts, and a quick trip to¬†Homebase, and we started painting the back wall of the eventspace with blackboard paint (we’ve got tonnes left by the way!). This process (over 30 square metres of space that is!) took approximately an hour, and was touch-dry within another hour, ready for a few touch-ups. Then we settled into a mini-Firefly¬†marathon accompanied by some pizza and beer.

After the Blackening

Apart from the painting. Matt Keenan has agreed to take lead on the redevelopment of our internal management system, working with Daniel Reid, Matt Campbell, and a few other nefarious characters. I’ve been working on my current long-standing obsession that is the ‘Big Red Button‘, that little piece of code that currently announces to twitter/IRC that the space is open or closed. I’m building up a Python based server for the SpaceAPI to fully expose the activities of Farset Labs in a standard format. Fun stuff.

Eoghan Murray is ploughing on with the redevelopment of the lounge (pending some technical issues with projectors), and Daniel Reid has been working on the icecast-based entertainment server. Feel free to come down and check these and more projects out!

All work and no play makes Bolster something something.

Still Alive

Fast Times at Farset Labs
Fast Times at Farset Labs

The launch day went, in our humble opinions, fantastically.

As in, really fantastic.

We’ve met our targets and everything passed smoothly, but, far more importantly, we had an awful lot of fun. ¬†A range of projects were attempted by those in the space over the 24-hr period, some of which were unexpected, all of which were cool. We can only mention a selection of the activities, but some of the most notable follow.

Andrew Sheppard learnt the ropes on an Arduino Uno and got some guidance on some of the low-level aspects of microcontroller interfacing. He also went nuts with a labeller in the kitchen. Ben Bland and Conor Flanagan, among other things, did the necessary measurements and are well on the way to creating a 3D model of the building. Eoghan Murray and Conor Robinson set up an amateur radio station in the Event Space, with an antenna running nearly the length of the building. It was illegal for around two minutes when one non-licensed member decided to try and chat to someone. Sighs were heard all round. Then David Kane joined them and they went numbers station hunting, successfully tuning into UVB-76 from Russia on 4625kHz.

Meanwhile, in the lounge, Niall Bole masterminded a gaming system with an Xbox 360 and projector that kept everyone entertained when they weren’t working. Likewise, the library and the vintage hardware were used both for amusement and for serious reference, with copies of Wired and Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics (Gibilisco), to name a couple, taken off the shelves and used. The ancient CRO was connected to…er…something that Conor Robinson built in the Event Space, with William Cully looking on, vaguely confused at the erratic waveform. The Portege laptop also disappeared with Chris Murray and was booted and explored.

The kitchen proved to be a good social hub, with people taking a break around coffee or a beer, leaving the gamers and their spectators at peace in the lounge, though cheers and lamentations could be heard constantly through the open door. We thought heating may be a problem (and had electric heaters at the ready), due to our lack of gas for the boiler at the minute, but attendance was so good that body heat (plus the heat from our servers) warmed the building comfortably.

The atmosphere was brilliant, with a party mood blended perfectly with a work ethos and several people mucked in to get the network infrastructure upgraded and humming along even faster than before. All of this was fuelled off snacks, soft drinks and some harder ones provided by Farset Labs, as well as a pizza order organised by the Prince of Pizza, Niall Bole. Rachel Gregg provided the most awesome cupcakes ever tasted by exhausted hackers, giving a taste of what the Bakerspace will be like.

We can’t mention everyone of the 30+ people who came to the space and their projects, mainly because I (David) didn’t even get the time to go around them all, despite wanting to, but there was a wide variety of awesomeness being attempted.

The 24-hr event thinned out on the Saturday morning, but, after people got a few hours sleep, several members (and the directors) came back and worked in the space together, with the Tron soundtrack providing the backing music. It was great to see people eager to come back right away and everyone worked until around 10pm on the Saturday night. The space (at this time on a Sunday night) has six people currently in it…and we’re about to take a break and educate three of them in the¬†wondrous¬†series that is Firefly.

And so closes Farset Lab’s first weekend. We’re all wrecked, full of junk food and haven’t been seen by significant others in too long, but, damn, it was good.

Final preparations

Equipment in the storeAnother day of frantic work and continuous driving has brought us much closer to our launch tomorrow. The plumbers have completely fitted the toilets to a great standard and the electricians are making sense of the circuits around the building; the puzzle pieces that were outside our control have pretty much fallen into place. After a long day driving to collect tables, hoovering endless dust and generally cleaning up, we’re about to pack up for the night, exhausted.

We’ve fitted out the reception area with a little more server equipment and a slightly fancier network configuration, and have the water supply turned on, making the space a lot more pleasant to be in. The contractors are finishing up and our outer window frames received a welcome coat of paint. Windows were scraped and the equipment store was further populated.

Tomorrow morning, final preparations include the plumbers and electricians finishing up, the hopeful delivery of our electric cooker, preparations for the rooms and general last-minute cleaning.

We can’t wait to see you all at our launch event tomorrow at 3pm!