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, 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 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.

Concatenate function in Excel and Google Docs


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.


To Drone or Not To Drone?

With the advent of the many quadcopters and kits, it’s pretty clear that remote-controlled and/or autonomous small aircraft are beginning to break into the mainstream. While hobby aircraft have long been around, it looks like they’re now moving into the commercial sector, as even Amazon is playing with the idea of delivering products via drones. Their team makes some exciting claims, including the ablility covering 86% of 5-lb deliveries via drones that can go as quickly as 50 mph (PDF warning).

Unfortunately for the industry, it looks like the use of these drones will be stifled by some fairly restrictive regulation. While we haven’t seen (to my knowledge) any real malicious acts committed by the operators of the aircraft, there is quite a bit of fear from different governments surrounding the operation of these drones. Recently there was a case of drones entering a no-fly zone near a French nuclear reactor. Obviously it is correct to monitor the area around such sensitive sites, but in this case, it looks like they were simply recording footage of a remote-controlled boat.

There are also issues with the FAA surrounding the commercial use of drones. Even though a ruling by a federal judge struck down a $10,000 fine levied on the videographer for a medical school commercial, the FAA continues to restrict the usage of drones, recently updating their rules to include drones in a prohibition of flight over stadiums and arenas.  The FAA did recently post a “myth-busting article” on their website, which mentions that hobbyists are expected to operate within the model aircraft guidelines.

Personally, I’ve admired the people who have managed to monetize their interests in drones, including these videographers and also some others who use them as aids in the hunt of feral hogs. I’d like to spend time looking into my own business opportunities, but with such an uncertain future regarding the regulation, it looks like it’s best to restrict ideas to the hobbyist realm, for now.

SDR looks like fun!

Software Defined Radio is something I haven’t gotten to see much, save for one nicely set-up booth at the Tulsa Mini Maker Faire. So when I stumbled across the following three resources, I knew that I had to write a quick post and save them for future use.

Giveaway from Numato Lab!

Numato Lab bag

Numato Lab had a giveaway not too long ago, and sent out hundreds of free products to people around the world. When I signed up, I didn’t quite realize that they were shipping from India! They were kind enough to ship me a 2-channel relay breakout board that I am sure I will put to good use. They may not be the largest shop around, but they do have a great selection of breakout boards, and hopefully I get the chance to order more from them!