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The Freehacker's Union (zedshaw.com)
69 points by jacktang on Mar 16, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

Worse than dupe: dead org. Zed hasn't posted to the mailing list since 11/26 last year, meetups kind of fell through.

There were a few meetups last time I checked and a few people did present some software/ideas/whatever.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes to lead or to actually, you know, do things.

Maybe it'll startup again with new found interest. I'm moving to NYC and would love to start going to some of these meetupy type events.

There was a news.yc NYC meetup, which I couldn't make it to, but I imagine was neat :)

If you want it to be serious, I think the trick is to get people to sign up to show cool stuff ahead of time, and advertise what people will be presenting.

If you'd like, I can help you organize (not that I have experience with that kind of things). I'd imagine we can find a place, issue a call for presentations, see how many responses there are, then make a site with the list of speakers.

I'm not sure when exactly I'll be moving [hoping for April 1st, but I might be commuting from Philly for a little bit since our apartment isn't getting rented...] When I do actually move, I'll let you know. I'd love to see what we can come up with.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of true hacker meetings (ie art/wires/code):

* hackerspaces: http://hackerspaces.org/

* 2600 meetings: http://www.2600.com/meetings/

* Dorkbot: http://dorkbot.org/

Nicely said. That very fact bothered me for a long time & now I'm happy there's at least one in this universe who think like me.

I was unlucky that I was not there when "home brew computer club" formed. Dammit I missed the golden age. I regret that.I really do.

I was looking for a place for me to fit in. A guy with the hacker gene. Grown so carefully in me thanks to all those hackers lived & left their experiences behind, on text files or whatever media. A guy who has lot of things to learn but struggling to find people who are willing to make another hacker with their knowledge & skills, like the real hackers who lived on this planet some times back.

I was looking for the right place. Right place for me to grow. I went there, I came here. No where is perfect. Maybe that's the way it is. Since the time is changed, the hackers of new days has to build their own world like a kid building a lego castle with pieces picked from HERE & THERE.

"One thing I found through doing all this hardware hacking is that people who wield a soldering iron in NYC are kind of secretive. I mean, they’re nice enough, but they really hold their secrets close to their chest. Take sourcing parts as an example. I would go to meetings where people showed off cool projects they made, and ask them where they get their parts. They would just evade the question, or tell me “digikey”, which is bullshit because I saw some Radio Shack shit in their gear."

Why is this so?

Why is this so?

In NYC the guys doing physical computing are all "new media artists" from Pratt or Parsons. They are doing their projects with the hopes of getting a gallery show or maybe some contract work making a blinky display for a Macy's holiday window. The levels of desperation and competitiveness surrounding this activity are much higher in NYC than places where Arduino hacking is just considered an obscure hobby.

In contrast, in SF/Silicon Valley the people doing physical computing hacks are all well-paid engineers or programmers during the day and the arduino-artsy stuff is just a hobby. Nobody makes any money off of it and they are happy to share tips. Also, everyone in Silicon Valley already knows that you just buy everything from Digikey. ;)

It's like being a C programmer, and someone asks you - "How do you declare a variable". You could try to explain, but it's not very interesting to answer such basic questions. If you don't even know where to buy electronic parts, you're not even at newbie level yet. You have not even started.

"Where do you get your parts?" is a lot more like "What editor do you use?" than "How do you declare a variable?". It's cool as hell to find a parts shop you never knew existed, or to find a useful component that Radio Shack sells, or to find a website which sells a drop-in solution for what you need.

Not in the context that Zed is asking in. He's asking because he has no idea what is in the devices, not because he wants to find a new store.

No, that is incorrect.

I’ve actually built a huge number of circuits, read tons of books and learned how to program a PIC basic stamp. I fucking love this shit.


I had to do my own research and found that, no, these guys get some of their shit from the NYU Computer Store on 242 Greene St near Washington Square Park. It’s obvious since everyone in NYC uses Arduinos and this store has most of the parts I’ve seen them use. That store has an entire section that’s dedicated to hardware hacking gear, including parts, kits, tons of Arduino components, full stamps, everything.

There is much more context and information in the original article. Zed recognized the parts, really did just want to know where the parts came from, and was interested to learn of the parts shop.

I actually joined and then attended the Boston FU meet a few times (there were only four of us that ever showed and after a few meetings it fizzled out). Here's something I whipped together in 30 minutes to bring to the first meet:


I love the idea behind FU and wish there were more open hacking groups around where people could attend, even if only to watch and listen to others. I don't necessarily have a ton of time for hacking stuff, but if I could spend an hour or two every week looking over someone's shoulder while they make something, or listen to someone explain their crazy ideas and then have open discussions as a group, I think it would help everyone explore new ideas and opinions.

If not for my ridiculous schedule (working at a start-up), I'd be more inclined to get such a group going myself.

It started out sort of vague (I joined the mailing list quite early), but as it acquired definition, it seemed to be ending up excessively concentrated in a "Zed"-like niche, i.e. the combination of scripting hacks and music / theatre-like performances.

So I drifted away and terminated subscription, and I guess many others did the same (and have had that impression confirmed from a couple of private emails).

I think that will happen with any broadly-defined "geek" social group.

The nerd club at my college was hugely slanted towards roleplaying and anime, so I felt sort of like an outsider caring mainly for computers and video games. An electronics nerd would have zero fun, but then again, it was a liberal arts college, so what do you expect?

One related question. I came across this book from the article "Making things talk" and I kind of like it (from what I can tell by reading excerpts at books.google.com). Can I enjoy this book and make cool programs like the one in book if I don't have a background in Electronics? Just curious.

Yes you can, the book will cover all the electronics stuff you will need to build the projects it presents. I find it to be a nice intro to physical computing stuff.

Tom Igoe, the author, co-wrote "Physical Computing" with Dan O'Sullivan, which is a book used in NYU's ITP for teaching artists and other non-engineers about electronics, microcontroller programming, mechanical devices, etc. So that should give you an idea of the expectations the book has from the reader, if you haven't done any electronics you will still enjoy it and, better yet, learn quite a bit from it.

I also suggest you check out his site http://tigoe.net/pcomp/ as it contains tutorials, syllabi from his classes at NYU's ITP, and other resources.

> Everyone who attends has to eventually show something. If it’s your first night,

Reminds me of Fight Club.

Can't wait for Project Mayhem.

"I’m finding that every geek gathering is full of asshole MBAs, groupies, and their wannabes."

Someone please explain to me how MBAs show up at geek meetups of any description. I would think stuff would be way too oriented away from money for them to show up. Maybe I'm just crassly stereotyping too much.

There are different sorts of MBAs. My mother's was focused on computers and tech, and though she's since moved out of that field, at the time she was quite the geek.

Having an MBA doesn't make you a bad person. It's just that MBAs more than many other degrees will attract a high proportion of the "make money and intimidate people" crowd. That's not exclusive. I know computer scientists who are equally clueless about what they do, but who think this degree will make them rich.

> Someone please explain to me how MBAs show up at geek meetups of any description. I would think stuff would be way too oriented away from money for them to show up. Maybe I'm just crassly stereotyping too much.

You're both over-stereotyping and under-stereotyping.

In both cases, they're showing up because "geek gatherings" are a place to find geeks. The over/under concerns why they want to find geeks.

And, geeks can be, and often are, extremely money-grubbing. The snotty addendum is that they're just not very good at it and/or are too concerned about whether someone else will make a buck to make one themselves.

Apparently, he want this to be open. I was hoping for a secret cabal since then we could make programming mystical and perhaps attract more people.

I went to two meetings here in NYC. Met some great people and had a great time seeing what other hackers were up to. I keep assuming all the layoffs combined with the onset of winter were to blame for things kind of petering out. It was a particularly weird time to keep momentum going for anything, but it'd be nice to get together again. I'm glad some links to similar groups have been posted, I hope to check them out.

These things do exist everywhere. They're just invite-only.


Hi PG, I don't know whether you're watching but this seems like a good example where it would be useful to grey out the URLs in downvoted posts as well as the message.

Whilst at the same time making URLs in downvoted posts plain text rather than a <a href=""> tag. Accidently clicking on a greyed out link because you couldn't see that there was a link there is just plain annoying.

They should also be nofollowed or the link will still help the spammer's pagerank. Any links in a comment having score < 0 should have the rel="nofollow" attribute set.


edit: nevermind, demallien's solution is superior, in that it prevents accidental clickage.

angry man... just ignore the mbas if they bother you. or move to california.

Yeah, California's a great place for a wound-up guy who doesn't want to hang with entrepreneurs.

From the article, it seems the MBAs are intruding on his traditional creative meetings for hackers, making it hard to ignore them.

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