Happy New Year - aka - Time for a twist!
Cherry G Mathew
Applying tech to local problems
This is going to be a pictureless post - sorry! For pictures see the twitter account https://www.twitter.com/kekorgin
It's been more than a year since we started this experiment. Initially, we modelled ourselves after Ghoomakkad (aka Infinity Hackbase). In a very short time we realised this won't work in Kerala. Then we moved to the beach (see a couple of stories down). Then we realised we were not needed. So we said, screw it - we'll take our skills where we're wanted!
There's a coming together of various factors for a successful social project. For KeK it's about "Applying tech to local problems".
No, we're not naive. Yes, we were crazy enough to start from first principles. Yes, we got incredibly stressed out, but also, incredibly rewarded (that look on a kid's face when he sees the LED glow - PRICELESS!).
Now, battle hardened, and wiser, we've decided to become Tech Nomads. That's right - not Digital Nomads - but TECH NOMADS. This idea perhaps needs a bit of explanation, and to begin with,.. read more
Fixing up the dreaded "ERROR 003" in a Wii
So I had this bricked Nintendo Wii lying around for quite sometime. For about
year or so, it lay there gathering dust. It was not until the end of HillHacks
2015 I managed to build up enough motivation to actually take a look at again,
but this time with proper determination to get it fixed.
Sometime back in 2014 this was a fully functional Nintendo Wii. I used to
occasionally put in a disc of "Wii Sports" and do some Bowling or play
tennis. And I always wanted to play "Resident Evil 0" but never found time to
play it. Then one day a friend of mine wanted to try one of the "Tony Hawk"
Games with the Skateboard bundle. As usual we inserted the Game Disc, it
prompted the Wii needed a firmware update and we gave it the "Yes", update
happened, prompted for a system restart, and then we were greeted by the
"Error 003 Unauthorized device has been detected"
Of course at the time we both were quite surprised, we thought we did something
wrong with the update, may be it did not go right, after all the error number is
quite small.. read more
From Hackbase to hackerspace.
Cherry G Mathew
Running a hotel is hard enough. Running a full villa compound with an
attached garden is a fulltime commitment. Running a hackbase for 9months
has been all of this - and more!
We're now a really tight, small group, who've decided that we really
want to focus on hacking at the beach. We want to focus our energies on
the projects we have going, and work out of an interesting space.
So we're going to move to a daytime space in the next few
months.... it will be our fulltime work and play area, and if you're a
hacker, you're more than welcome to come play with us! We have some
interesting toys to play with! (of course we also have all the old
toys from the hackbase coming into the hackerspace)
Off to HillHacks 2016 - HH2!
Celebrating Hacking, Making, Learning and Sharing, HillHacks was the culmination of one great culture, that saw the coming together of many individual cultures, and it attracted many a like-minded people and the most exciting of ideas and action, to the beautiful hills near Dharamshala, in the lap of the Himalayas.
It was the beauty of that creative culture at HH1 which made Cherry think deep about the need for setting up a hackbase in Trivandrum,
which could also act as a peer to peer learning space, where local people, technology and culture could meet the goodness of the HillHacks culture that he had experienced.
And with that dream soaring high, Cherry and Santhosh, came back to Kerala, tugging along a few great goodies that Akiba and Todd donated/lent to the cause.
With the two ThinkPad X61s and the Quick Soldering Station that Akiba lent, the four TP-Link routers that he donated, the Soekris Router and the 24-port Unmanaged Switch that Todd gave, and a bunch of Rubik cubes, Cherry and Santhosh reached Thiruvananthapuram, a place blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Kerala.
.. read more
One lock to unlock them all - the Electronic Door Lock project at KEK
To make the KEK physical space even more accessible to all of the community, we need to make sure the doors are open to anyone in need, even when the residents have stepped out for a few hours.
One solution would be to circulate around a set of duplicate keys. Or another would be to make sure that somebody is always there to open the door.
Or the fun way would be to automate all of that in a very scalable Electronic Door Lock, as suggested by Cherry. The idea was to interface a motor to the existing deadbolt lock (for which the specs were obtained from Dorset's website).
And last weekend, we had Santhosh and Vinayan doing exactly that. Here is a brief on what happened:
In order to automate the lock system we needed to ensure the following
conditions were met
1. Motor driven mechanism that can turn the lock in the desired direction to
open or close.
2. Making sure to authenticate the person who wants to get access to KeK
3. Make sure in case the electronic system fails the door is still functional
Let us look.. read more
I am a Drupal developer, consultant, and trainer, living at Pongummoodu (around 23km from KEK).
I make a living by helping web-entrepreneurs leverage on the power of Drupal as a strong, secure and scalable platform on which they can happily build their web businesses on.
I used to have a full-time job before, freelanced for a bit, and then set-up a Drupal consulting firm,
essentially carrying on the freelance projects under the new firm, with a bit more people, to help me get things done reliably.
I've also been gathering some really good people together into a small collective of freelancers
with the hope that something really good will eventually come out when good people come together.
I also help some people start off as web developers.
I believe in the power of good communities.
Technology, Open Source, Creative and Artistic communities have always been a strong source of inspiration for me,
and I have been always looking to connect with them.
KeK provides me with a quiet and beautiful work environment, with good infrastructure, in a rural context, and is an ideal place where I get to meet all kinds of interesting and.. read more
Startups and Literacy
Cherry G Mathew
This is a brief summary of things happening at KeK, and where we hope things will go forward.
There's fish in the pond. Yes - a literal pond in the KeK yard. Anto put them in the pool. They keep mosquitoes from breeding in it. It was interesting to clean the water in the pond, while the fish were in it. Ask us how, when you visit :-)
A really good recent development is that a local friend who isn't literate has now started visiting the space semi-regularly. He's had a go at the gnu typing tutor, and reading phonetically. He is a really fast learner.
We host two startups in stealth mode at the space. They may or may not see the light of day, but hey, that's what stealth is all about :-)
Finally, we're talking to our friends at Kerala Startup Mission who are quite keen to support the wood working workshop event.
We have about 4 people (3 professionals and one student) who occasionally visit the space to work out of it. This is an area that needs more attention - ideally we'd have a better number of people working out of the space - this of course needs furniture - which brings us back to the workshop.. read more
Hacking at the beach
It's been a long time since we had a story, although so many things have happened that this could be a long blog, so I'll stick to a chronological account, starting with the most exciting thing that happened after the last update. From 8th to 15th Nov, 2015 (last year) , a bunch of hackers from around the world got together at Kovalam beach. We even got noticed by Kerala Tourism for the wrong reasons :-)
The venue was really nice - right at the beach, if you wanted to escape for a dip or a swim or get a bodyboard and go surfing. However, what really was great about the venue, was that it was bare.
When you put a bunch of creative people in a roof space full of junk building material, you get this. For its spartan resources, the conference was full of creativity like this. See the twitter page for more pictures.
While the creatives were at work, we had a bunch of electronics people having fun. There were people of different skill levels, and the real fun was how spontaneous groups formed based on interest.
Out of the spontaneity, emerged actual order - we had 4 days of.. read more
Outreach by poster
Cherry G Mathew
Hackbeach posters on the KeK gateway.
We've recently been working hard on the https://www.hackbeach.in project and we made the first posters which are now stuck on the outside of the KeK compound. This is great because the street on which our gate is used by the entire community which lives behind us just around the corner. This got me thinking about the challenge we are facing with outreach. On the one hand, the people we met when we went around to say hi in the neighbourhood were very keen on interacting with us. On the other hand, they are extremely shy to come into our compound - a sort of bizarre class barrier due to the vastness and imposing (to them) nature of our space. Yet every time they pass by, they are curious and look up at our space. They try to figure out what's going on, who's new here, etc. etc.
I thought that a great way to engage this curiousity to get them to understand what we do here, is to display samples of our work on the gate. Since we're doing what's called the "Joule thief" circuit for saturday electronics lessons, I'm thinking of leaving a live circuit on.. read more
Last week we Cherry couldn't conduct the workshop on Saturday because of other engagements, so he asked his friend, Akshay, to substitute for him. Akshay, who's a recent graduate in engineering, was kind enough to partake. Thanks Akshay for conducting the workshop!
The workshop was focused around understanding by experimentation the basic concepts of physics and electronics using a hardware/software platform called expEYES (ExpEriments for Young Engineers and Scientists). It's an open hardware and software platform and it's affordable. For the curious ones who want to know more about this can look at the website and a review.
Apart from the workshop attendees we had some friends who support us with our activities visit us. One of those friends who is keen on gardening and farming helped us pave a foothpath in the backyard. This Saturday Cherry will be back and we'll have another one of weekly workshops. (Our weekly workshops happen on Saturdays, 10 AM onwards at our place.
As founder and mentor of various hackspaces and active member of Chaos Computer Club (CCC) I am glad to support KEK in the starting days till mid/end November. My first contact to India was with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore in 2013, where I e.g. restarted the Cryptoparty movement just before Snowden came in limelight.
By training I am a carpenter and an anthropologist with a minor in computer science (german degrees). As it was mentioned in the community meet by various people for themselves: Yes, I can swim; and can try to teach. Besides that I am happy to introduce everyone interested in the more-safe-ways using the internet and the web Also I always love to show how to use the internet in general -- instead of using the web only.
In the last decade I have organized many events like the Chaos Communication Congress (C3) mentioning as the biggest one. While in India, some friends and me had the crazy idea to start something in Himachal the Himalayas (and later at the Beach): Check out hillhacks.in and hackbeach.in to learn more, but don’t be confused: The.. read more
Body "Hacks" - Ayurvedic Accupuncture
Last week, we had a miscellaneous group from Bangalore and other places, visit for a week.
Arun, who is a trained (from the Govt. Ayurveda College, Trivandrum) ayurvedic masseur met Parvati and Lochan during an "Onam Sadya" a month ago. He is also local. Their conversations went around body health and Ayurveda, and before we knew it, a session for ayurveda massage workshops emerged.
The space now looks vibrant, with mosquito nets such as this, pitched up in the common areas.
Everyone seems to have enjoyed this, as much as they took it very seriously.
Arun and Lochan discuss the finer points of anatomy from Wikipedia.
For me this was really a good example of how technology, tradition and medicine all come together to great good health and happiness.
Today we're holding a quick meeting to talk to the locals to find out what they're interested in... we have our work cut out, but one of the things we need to focus on is getting the space opened up for kids and families with kids, to come and play and learn! If you have a family, and you would like to.. read more
During the three weeks we have been at kek we tried to turn it from a big house to a home for hackers. It's a lot of work. So far it's been mainly cherry, fragger_fox.
Cherry and I closed the space on 10th and left for other cities. This is temporary only, of course. The space will be open again from 19th or 20th September onwards once we come back.
We're also doing hackbeach in November and I've spent a lot of time playing a sysadmin - getting the submission system in place and scouting for affordable accommodation options among other things etc.
Once the space is open again there'll be more visitors and even one more resident hopefully. Before leaving I did a bit of research on tools we'd need and want to have at the space. I'll be bringing those tools with me when I come back so we'll have more tools and materials to hack with besides our laptops.
There's more to come, soon-ish.
We've slowly been developing some patterns in the space. The first one is a weekly schedule of sorts - every day has a theme and a "hack of the day".
Since we're very particular about minimising our environmental footprint, we use ash for soap as much as practical. We also aspire to use coir/fibre scrubs, at least for doing the dishes.
We also made a couple of ad-hoc hacks. When our local intern, Akhil went about fixing piping, we discovered that the plastic drain-pipes buckle and block the flow of water. So he came up with a coiled-wire scaffolding solution! Pure Genius!
Santhosh is a web/server side guy, and has been itching to get his hands dirty on electronics. He got his chance when the router boards we had from Freifunk got bricked accidentally. So he wired up a serial port console.
Sure, he de-bricked the routers!
We also got the http://hackbeach.in/ CFP out. (Huge shoutout to Stephanie, Santhosh, Kondi and Trouble!)
After tomorrow, we're going to shut down the space for about 10days, since people are dispersing for.. read more
This week was mostly about settling in. J Random Hacker and I are the current residents, and we have room for one more! We also have Yadu , from the Headstart Network Foundation visiting us for a couple of days.
One of the first projects that I'd like to see happen near KEK is to get the neighbourhood mapped on OpenStreetMap. Yadu graciously offered his phone and feet for this for the GPS trace, and we took a long wander to the sea shore.
This month I will be focussing on KEK setup, hackbeach and my own consulting projects (BSD). In addition, I'm hoping to start discussions with SISP about the electronics theory training lessons. We got a basic breadboard and some wire. Need to develop a toolkit of components, tools, etc. We have a basic wirestripper from Hillhacks and a soldering iron, but probably need more stuff!
This is my current wishlist for the electronics teaching project:
- Soldering Iron
- Component tray box
- Function Generator
J. Random Hacker
I fiddle with technology. I have been doing it for quite some time now; from not being able to place a disc properly on an optical drive tray to not being able to write a funcitoning pf.conf.
Along with writing software for a living, in the past, I have been part of the wikimedia.org communities in varied roles and now I help create temporary spaces for the intelligentsia to come together and gossip do interesting things.
Scheming as a systems person and a resident mentee & mentor at kek till end December, 2015.
Cherry G. Mathew
Cherry G Mathew
I like to play with kernel code, electronics, walk up mountains, travel footloose and hang out with the locals, pretend to cook, do a bit of gardening / small scale farming, teach, take things apart, and generally pretend that I'm an intelligent sort.
In reality, I'm homeless and spending time at KeK, teaching the solar lamp unit workers at the local charity http://www.sisp.in/ , basic electronics. I do this on Tuesday's and Thursdays.
My real job is to work on the NetBSD (and other BSDs) kernel.
See: http://188.8.131.52/~cherry for more about me.
I will be a KeK resident until end February, 2016