Moving into MakerSpace: First thoughts

So on May 27th, I got my invite to MakerSpace, which is attempting to be a new social network for DIY enthusiasts. (I was on my honeymoon for a bit, so I’m just now getting around to making an account). This is the same group that does MakerFaires and publishes Make Magazine, and I’m kind of excited that they’re going into this area.

After making an account and browsing last night, here are my first impressions:

  • The first reaction may be to compare this to Instructables, and that’s entirely fair. I’ve never posted to Instructables, but it’s got a stellar community. MakerSpace seems to be entering into the same territory, so it remains to be seen if they’ll be competing, or just overlapping.  Instructables does cover everything from electronics to knitting, so it might be MakerSpace’s biggest competitor. They do can get a little corporate with their contests, but there are so many good ones,
  • There’s also Hackaday.io, which I’ve also not experienced too much, but they feature some very hardware/software-heavy projects. At first glance, MakerSpace might be the more accessible platform for non-techie types. There is, of course, the Hackaday Prize
  • Speaking of contests, those other two sites almost use their contest guidelines to ensure that people write excellent, comprehensible content. It makes you wonder if we’ll see anything similar from MakerSpace.
  • The name is within the Make-realm, but it might be a bit confusing when people might already associate that with physical locations known as “Maker Spaces”, which people might prefer to use for their shop rather than a “hackerspace”.
  • Projects can be linked externally, and accessed without an account, so your posts can be seen by people without an invite!
  • It’s a pretty new community, and a few social butterflies are starting to emerge. Interaction is the bread-and-butter of online communities, so we’ll have to see how it progresses. A lot of these sites falter when their user-base is excessively self-promoting, rather than contributing to the group experience.
  • New users are posted in the timeline like “James Maddux was 3D printed out of Stardust”. Just thought that was cute.
  • On each project, the “Tools & Parts” section starts with a quick run-down at the beginning, hot-linked to a slightly-more-detailed, semi-ugly list at the end, which does give a chance to list part ID’s. This Sample Kimchi project…the quantity of ‘1 Sesame Seeds’ is a little off, I’d guess. If the author had a place to post quantities in a recipe-friendly format, it would probably look better.
  • I like the large photos that accompany some of the uploaded projects.
  • There are some older projects uploaded by Makezine authors, and some of them are a little out-of-date because of their collaborations with RadioShack. Those same projects were also published on the Makezine.com site, but oddly removed. Kind of ironic, because the Makezine site has an arguably better interface, although it probably took a little more finagling to write a clean article with it.
  • On the other hand, the Maker Media user seems to auto-follow new users, and has posted lost of Primers and intro projects that are good examples/style guides.
  • There is an option to post pictures of what you’re working on, without posting a tutorial. I like this, though others may not.
  • There are bits that are from Amazon AWS – at least the photos.
  • The profile is a bit interesting. You can upload a circular profile photo, and a header image. It has badges, a bio, a tagline, and spots to add your other social networks, especially two interesting ones: Instructables and LinkedIn. There’s also GitHub.

So overall, MakerSpace shows promise, and I plan on uploading a few projects, to give it a shot. I have about ten invites, so if you’d like one of them, my email is in the “About Me” section.

Back from my honeymoon!

Just got back into town last week from my honeymoon. My new wife and I took a nice, long drive through Oregon, and were able to see Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, lots of the Pacific coast, and as much as we could in Portland. I highly recommend the drive to anyone, especially if you’re up for taking a few detours and hiking a few trails. It’s very green and beautiful up there.

Now that the wedding and honeymoon preparations are finished, I should be able to get to blogging a bit more. It’s been a busy spring, but this summer should provide lots of opportunities to learn…and post!

sharky likes the internet

Links – 18/May/2015

  • Sharks have found the internet, and declared it delicious.
  • My brother just linked me to i3, a tiling window manager that looks pretty efficient and easy to use. I’ve been wanting to dig more into the console-oriented side of Linux, and maybe this will finally dig me out of relying on shiny icons and buttons–not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Jetbrains offers free 1-year student licenses to students with a valid .edu address. This was highly-regarded in the Python subreddit, where I found the link, because they offer PyCharm Pro, a popular python IDE. I’m definitely planning on using that program, but they include a lot of other worthwhile programs as well.
Concatenate function in Excel and Google Docs

Concatenate…Concatenate…

So as previously mentioned, I’m (gradually) improving at using Excel for fun and profit. Actually, in this case I’m using Google Docs, since it uses most of the same features and syntax, with a few random add-ons.

Here’s one little project that actually got somewhere. It’s a Google Docs spreadsheet where I’m taking a copy-pasted table of last year’s ex-dividend announcements in the month of May, trimmed them down to stock symbols, and then used those stock symbols to automatically generate links.

Why do this? Well, some stocks do a quick “jump” after the dividend announcement, it would be convenient to have an automatically-generated list of links to observe each stock’s performance post-announcement. These announcements usually come around the same date each year. I generated this list to test my theory, but it should be emphasized that this just spreadsheet advice, and definitely not financial advice!

How to make it:

The first step was to copy-paste the dividend calendars from last year into the spreadsheet. Because the info is already in table format, you just need to select the box that you want to become the upper-left-hand corner of the pasted information. This is repeated until you have a nice, long list of stocks and info, which can then be sorted by Excel/Google Sheets. You can also freeze the upper row of the sheet, so that you have labels as you scroll through.

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Getting better at MS Excel (and maybe Access too)

In one of my physics lab classes, my group had a geology major who was, self-admittedly, outside his element. The information wasn’t very relevant to him, and he wouldn’t be struggling for that C if his transfer university didn’t require that specific course. Despite this, he contributed to our lab write-ups in a big way: he worked miracles in Excel. Because of this, we were able to quickly work through the lab while he typed up our data, graphed it and made it attractive and readable…and if we gave him the formulas, he would even have our calculations complete!

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Corporation Education!

I’m going to start a new resource-gathering focus for this blog, in which I scour different company websites to see what sorts of PDF’s, ebooks and resources that would be useful to students. A lot of the literature on their sites may be too specific to the application or the product, but there is some worthwhile stuff that companies put out!

A good example of this would be TI’s Op Amp handbook. It’s an easy download as a PDF, and it’s not terribly vendor-specific to TI.

Links & Thoughts

  • What’s in Woodson’s Tech Thursday segment shows off a Mercury Arc Reactor Tube, including a nice .gif clip of the mercury pooling as the tube turns on its side! They’re working through a collection of old equipment from Rice’s EE department, and so far they’ve shown off some interesting stuff!
  • Daniel Mannion 3D-prints off a nice, rubbery insole prototype out of NinjaFlex filament. I hadn’t heard of this NinjaFlex filament before, but the stuff looks pretty handy! For my semi-flexible builds, Oogoo (DIY Sugru from silicone + cornstarch) has been my fall-back material, but it’s got a few issues in durability, and it would be nice to print off a shape, rather than carve into a rough blocky material.
  • A few days ago, RadioShack filed for bankruptcy, and has said that they will be closing ~1700 stores (a map of them is viewable at that link). It’s a little disheartening, but I am surprised that they’ve stuck around for this long. They were finally getting back into the hobby arena, but it was too little, too late. I love the possibility of grabbing a common IC or an Arduino shield…but to complete the majority of projects, you usually have to order something online, and at that point, who needs a brick-and-mortar?
  • That said, I will absolutely be overspending at the Shack’s liquidation sales in the next month-or-so. We’ve already had a clearance-oriented store in Tulsa for some time, and I already have several shields, components, and kits laying around, waiting to be built.