fizzPOP Howdunio

fizzPOP Howduino

The fizzPOP crew, in particular Nikki, GBulmer and Charlie Pinder, have been hard to bring you the fizzPOP Howduino hack day at VIVID, which is supported by Hello Digital as part of Fringe Events programme.

Photo by Nikki Pugh

fizzPOP joins forces with Howduino to host a room full of people sticking together electronics, computer programs, cardboard and discarded junk items to make cool stuff do cool things in ways you never imagined. Join us and be part of the growing hacker and maker scene emerging around the UK.

Tickets for the 40 available places will be released on Friday 6th of November on a first-come first-served basis. Likewise for the workshops, which have 8 places each. Sign up here for notification when the tickets are released

Go to the fizzPOP Howduino wiki for full details of the event and to find out more about who’s coming.

All skill levels welcome – there will be something for everyone.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of electronics or just wanted to in a room full of people hacking away at devices sign up and be part of the action!

fizzPOP socials

I mentioned in a previous post how I wanted to get more people doing social things that related to hacking, like going to the Micromouse event last Saturday. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for people to see what else is available to the community and to link different micro communities that would eventually encourage more discussion and collaboration between the groups. Well, it looks like I’m not the only one with that idea. Several members of the group have been rather vocal on making the meetings more than fortnightly. My only concern with a move like that is that there’s a risk of exhaustion and people may feel under too much pressure to come. This is why I liked the suggestion of one member to have social meets in between the hacking sessions. In this way discussion can still continue and it may be a great way for new members to get better acquainted to other members.

Now the next task is to seek out of technical events in the West Midlands that we could go to and also to just chill over brew! If people interested in attending a social next week have a preference over day vote here

Thoughts on fizzPOP

Since February I have been running a hackerspace network called fizzPOP. The aim of this is to eventually acquire a permanent space for people to come and share ideas and collaborate on their projects. THe benefits of having a space include actually getting out of the house and, having a space with materials that you may not have .e.g. a lazer-cutter and just generally being in a friendly environment to bounce around ideas with other people.

Aside from the obvious issue of acquiring a space, which we recently (kind of) rectified, one of the problems we’ve had is in defining ourselves.

I think the UK is generally new to the idea of a hackerspace. They’ve been around Europe and America since modern computing came about. It has its roots in the DIY movement and the activities at a hackerspace can be anything from learning a programming language to learning how to construct and use a sewing machine. The key element is the sharing of skills and exploration of technology.

Laptop Fire

Back to the problem, how can you define something that covers such a broad range of topics? Many of our members, upon coming to a meeting have asked, “So, what do we do?” The answer to that is usually to do whatever you want, but perhaps some boundaries or instruction might be needed. People may respond better if there is a set task for them to focus on. The danger in doing this is that you may then alienate those who do not want to take part in the task.

Overall, what I would like for fizzPOP is for there to be tutorials/workshops on a particular subject that run alongside the usual ‘anything goes’ activities. For this, however, you need people who want to run workshops. How do you encourage this?

Bleepy Noises

Whilst Nikki and Pete have been hacking their toys and gadgets to make all manner of noises I’ve gone the soldering-free option by making sweet noise on my laptop in Pure:Data. This originally started in the hack session at the Linux Emporium as an attempt to make a sort of theme tune for the hack space. By the end of the day I’d accomplished making fart-like noises that mess up your head a bit. At the next hack session I’d progressed a little bit further and made my farty noises a little bit more controllable with the use of sliders and buttons.

I want to progress my little fart-machine and make the random noises keyboard controllable and eventually have a sort of ambient fart-noise generator that actually sounds tuneful. As long as you have Pure Data installed you can download what I did and try it for yourself.

Clicky here to download

Whilst you’re at it join the mailing list 😉

March Hackspace Meet

Saturday was the second meeting for the Birmingham Hack Space which made an impromptu relocation to Scruffy Murphy’s.

The meet was graced by the presence of Jonty and Russ, founders of the London Hack Space who were more than happy to share their experiences so far in setting up their own hackspace.

I think it can be said for any project that aims to bring people together that in order to progress you need to gather a community together. Once you have a strong community, even if it consists of a few dozen people, you can make real progress and begin to grow and achieve more.

As a result of the meeting the hackspace now has it’s own temporary blog, Twitter account and is on Facebook

Our next meeting is on April 11th, which you can find out more information on in this thread and then we’ll be having fortnightly pub meets staring on 15th April

WXWM late roundup

Courtesy of Ms McQuillan

On Saturday 14th March I was at Kitchen Garden Cafe to take part in WXWM as a panel host. My 5-minute talk was a short introduction to hacking. I wanted to dispell some myths about hackers and hacking, show how fun it can be and also promote the Birmingham Hack Space at the same time. You can download the slides from my presentation for free (available under GNU FDL) and you can listen again to all of the presentations over at Rhubarb Radio

My favourite talks included Charlie Pinder’s talk on Pervasive Technology, which she illustrated using the medium of cake

My talk on hacking (with a little bit of promotion for the Birmingham Hack Space) took place near the end, but none the less was still well received. I was a little nervous but everyone seemed to enjoy my use of hats to illustrate the different sides of hacking.

Keep watch on this space for more hackery goodness soon!


Prompted by the number of Brummies migrating over to Texas soon for SXSW, the lovely Shona McQuillain has organised something similar. In her words:

It may have come to some peeps attention that a number of Brummie bods will be whooshing over to Texas all transatlantic style for SXSW (South by South West) later next week, to mingle and schmooze with web wizards, net honchos and to do some other shizz, like having fun. Not wishing to be outdone by this, a furious flurry of Twitter activity this evening has registered interest in a counter-event to these southern States shennanigans: WXWM. That’ll be West by West Midlands, then.

Yours truly will be giving a brief introduction to hackerspaces, so come on down to the Kitchen Garden Cafe this Saturday, 14th March from 2pm for some technological action!

First Hackspace Meeting

Birmingham Hack Space Meeting

Last Saturday we had our very first Hackspace meeting. As we don’t yet have a building of our own it was more to sort out how to get funding, what we want to do and lots of smaller things.

What I really like about the technological community is how kind and useful everyone is. To illustrate, I made an audio recording of the meeting (which unfortunately came out crap) and so many people offered their usb sticks to save it on. Also, when discussing kitting out the building with computers and other hardware everyone had at least one spare computer! Where else in the world would that happen?!

Anyways, join in the discussion and join the group