March 30, 2015

Margvelous Issue #1

Greetings, greetings.

This week in Margvelous we’re covering Maker Faire year 2, Internet of Things, Alternative Reality Games, 3D Printing, and a conversation with Make CEO Dale Dougherty. Along the way we’ll also talk about some woodworking projects, a new D3 data visualization discovery, and the Hadoop data exploration tool Apache Pig.

Welcome to my incredibly disjointed life of work. Let’s dive into what’s been explored this week.

1. Chicago Southland Mini Maker Faire

Last year a group of us got together and — within a month’s planning time — threw one hell of an event. That event was Mokena Mini Maker Faire, year one (pictures and web post).

This year we’ve renamed the event, found a new, larger venue, and are lining up big name speakers and vendors (ooh, fancy). Southland Mini Maker Faire is on August 22nd at the Pipefitters Local 597 Training Facility in Mokena, IL. With upwards of 50,000 square feet, an auditorium for speakers, and outdoor space to boot, this year’s Maker Faire will be better than ever.

So why are so many people around the globe devoting their time and money to starting Maker Faires? When I met with Dale Dougherty (CEO of MAKE) this week, we talked about the vision of MAKE, the maker movement, and our own little Maker Faire in Mokena. Here’s what he said (paraphrasing): "Maker Faire is what brings creators out of their shells and in front of the public." It's your modern-day World's Fair. It's where magic happens. Maker Faire takes up a lot of our time as organizers, but we do it to bring the world something different.

2. Gettin' Jiggy with Hacking Tips

Spring is here (allegedly), and many of us are coming back to projects that’ve been collecting dust in the proverbial garage. If you’re like me, that list of projects has been getting absurdly long. But this year, something’s different: things are actually getting done. Here are the tools and techniques that I used to finish four big projects in under a week. Also, these aren't affiliate links or anything... I just like this stuff:
  • DIY Clothesline

A few months ago I built a dining room table for my wife. In the process, I picked up a really nifty (and cheap!) tool called a Kreg Jig. This weekend, I pulled the Kreg Jig out of retirement for another project: a quick (and easy) clothesline.

Put simply, a Kreg Jig is a great way of tucking screws into unseen places in your wood, bringing together stronger joints, and feeling like an honest-to-goodness carpenter. Bottom line: get one if you want to build professionally crafted pieces.

Also, did you know aside from saving a ton of energy, being significantly less expensive, and keeping your clothes in better shape, hanging your clothes on a line allows the UV from the sun to kill most bacteria on your clothes? Pretty cool stuff.
  • IOT Sensor Array

If you want to get started with IOT, the easiest option up 'til now was to buy an Arduino and a WiFi shield ($60), or a Raspberry Pi with a WiFi dongle ($50). But the ESP8266 is changing all of that. At under $5, with eight pins, WiFi, and a programmable chip, the 8266 is the best thing on the market. I just ordered another six on Ebay while typing up this email.
  • Greenhouse in the Back Yard

We're big into sustainable living, self-sufficiency, and DIY at my household. Permaculture -- the art of growing with guilds and complimentary plants -- has long been a pastime of ours. We can our food every Fall, and use heirloom seeds every Spring. You may be surprised, then, to hear that one of the things our garden has lacked until a week ago is a greenhouse. In short: our growing season has just extended by about three months, we're able to keep our plants out of the house, and it wasn't very expensive to get where we are.
  • Robot Overlords

Are you using Slack like the other half-million people out there? Or maybe you're on HipChat, Campfire, or some other service. Well then, my friend, let me introduce you to Hubot: the open source, highly hackable robot built in Coffeescript by GitHub. Or, as I like to call him: Jaybot. Jaybot is on every chatroom of my various Slack rooms, and he's busy posting salty pictures of Pugs, Carlton Dance gifs, and Jay jokes. With a little tweaking, he could become sentient.

3. Video Game Work

With city-wide sensor arrays, popular IOT devices like Apple Watch, and augmented reality goggles finally breaking into the zeitgeist, my mind has turned to what these devices will offer the games landscape. Some of you may have read about the “Big Data Outbreak” project that I worked on last year, or the collaborative co-op controllers in “Project Libity” that I’ve been developing. I’m even currently working on another conference badge project due out in the next couple months.

Out of work like this, and the work of countless others, an immersive, metadata-rich world catered just toward you is emerging. Don't believe me? Ask Google.

4. Data Visualization and Manipulation 

  • Apache Pig

I spent a few days last week catching up on the Hadoop tech out there, and of all of the things I saw, Apache Pig impressed me the most. Essentially, Pig is a way to transform and explore data in a programming and SQL-like manner. Want to use external functions in your preferred programming language to manipulate data? Pig has UDF for that. Need to join data quickly? It has that, too. Want to run Pig on Spark? Get a Spork.

  • C3 on D3

C3 is a library for the D3 library for Javascript. Sound a little confusing? Look at it like this: If you want to use D3 to make quick interactive data visualizations, and only need a standard graph, then use C3. I've been hacking on it for a beer data project of mine, and it's been a huge help in getting things done fast. Of course, if I wanted something snazzier, D3 is still the way to go.

5. 3D Prints of the Week

  • MapR Keychain - This is a personal build. What can I say? I couldn't resist building this keychain for the company I'm currently working at.
  • Spinning Top Orbital Series - Fun little build once it's finished, but a little finicky when it comes to sticking on the printer bed during the print, as well as getting it off the bed after. My advice: put a little gluestick down to keep it from moving, and let it cool down (maybe even spray it with some alcohol) before peeling it off.
  • Egg Pods - Just in time for Easter. These prints are very well done, with supports pre-built in. They're also fairly fragile, so make sure your kids aren't whipping them around your -- ahem -- makerspace's garage.
  • iPhone 6+ Stand - A bit of a long print (at about 6 hours, the longest in this list). Still, it's a great addition to my desk, and keeps my iPhone in use all day. Two things to note: 1) A little glue on the bed might help keep the base from cracking like mine, and 2) If you have any sort of phone case, I'd recommend speccing the design out a little larger to accommodate for that.

6. This Week’s Events