August 24, 2009

Creative Commons design contest and workshops

Filed under: Design by Branko Collin @ 8:00 am

Premsela and Waag Society are organising the Unlimited Design Contest from August 13 to October 12 in the categories form, food and fashion. The idea seems to be that the design must be reproducible in one of three Fablabs (Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), places where you can use things like laser cutters and 3D printers for free.

Workshops to inspire you will be given by Marije Vogelzang (food), Frank Tjepkema (form) and Zelda Beauchampet (fashion), with the price of entry covering the materials you will be using.

One of the rules is that when you release your design for the contest, you must release it under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license.

See also: Looking for open source furniture.

(Link: Bright. Still of Joris van Tubergen creating a lamp by Unlimited Design Contest.)

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August 16, 2009

The Electric Kart project [HAR 2009]

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 1:59 pm

The E-Kart or Electric Kart is an experiment to see “whether we can somehow conceive our own home-built electric vehicle—we bought an old go kart frame and converted it to a zero emission kart, using parts from an electric scooter,” according to its makers, Anthony Liekens and Walter Schreppers.

I talked to Liekens at HAR. The electric scooter was used simply because they had one available from China that wasn’t rated for use on the road in Belgium, and also because this solution was cheaper than getting the required parts separately. Originally, they wanted to buy an electric motor that would draw 4800 watts. The current scooter-based model uses 500 watts.

When I visited E-Kart Village, Anthonie was mourning a flat front tire, but in true hacker spirit, he told me that they were looking into the many and diverse applications of duck tape to overcome this problem. And sure enough, a day later I saw the kart zip across the campground again.

The E-Kart has a top speed of 23 km/h, and because it can access all its torque immediately, accelerates very fast. The E-Kart blog has lots more info, including videos and a complete, illustrated history.

Now it’s off for me to the last of the talks of HAR 2009. I hope you enjoyed reading about the camp as much as I enjoyed attending.

Update: I appear to have forgotten to include the link to the E-Kart blog, an oversight I have now corrected (see first paragraph)—B.

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August 15, 2009

Lucia de B., angel or witch? [HAR 2009]

Filed under: Science by Branko Collin @ 10:35 pm

I just turned away from the lock-picking talk, as the tent was absolutely packed (me being 5 minutes late). I don’t know how many people fit in these convention tents, hundreds, perhaps thousands, but that is the amount of people that after tonight may know how to break every lock you own.

Earlier today I was at the talk with possibly the smallest amount of listeners of this 4-day exercise, you might even say the attendants resembled Cantor Dust. OK, lousy statistical jokes aside, this talk was by statistician Richard Gill of the University of Leiden and dealt with the Lucia de Berk case.

I had heard of the case before. In 2001, a nurse from The Hague was accused of having murdered dozens of patients, and the strange thing was that most of her guilt was determined by statistics: she had been near the victims at the time of their deaths, and although a direct link with the accused in the form of a confession or evidence could not be established, the court found that the statistical likelihood of her being near all these victims at the time of death was so minute, she must have done it.

At the time I thought this reasoning seemed silly, but I have learned early on in life never to argue with statisticians. So imagine my surprise: here was a statician who argued that the court’s reason had indeed been extremely silly, and that an innocent woman had gone to jail.

I won’t bore you with repeating the entire lecture: author Maarten ‘t Hart summarized Gill’s position excellently in this article from NRC (Dutch). Gill’s paper on how likely the chance is that a nurse was on active duty during all deaths concludes that one in nine nurses would have gone to jail (PDF).


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August 14, 2009

Digital rights organisation Bits of Freedom restarted [HAR 2009]

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 10:06 pm

Today the Dutch digital rights organisation Bits of Freedom announced that it will be making a second start. A lack of funds made it impossible to go on in 2006, but under new director Ot van Daalen, the foundation managed to get a subsidy from Internet4all which will enable BoF to start anew and keep going for the next three years.

In his speech at hackers convention HAR 2009 in Vierhouten, Gelderland, Van Daalen reminded an attentive audience that in 1998, the Dutch government had adopted the stance (in a document called Wetgeving voor de Electronisch Snelweg) “that which applies off-line, should also apply on-line.” This already unfortunate attitude has now changed into the even worse “that which we wouldn’t apply off-line, we will apply on-line,” according to the new BoF.

Examples abound in the form of data retention laws. The Bits of Freedom foundation wants to defend privacy and the freedom to communicate in the information society.

You can find Van Daalen’s speech (in English and PDF format) here.

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Connected at last! [HAR 2009]

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 7:54 pm

Yesterday I left my home around 8 am, and today around 3 pm I was finally connected to the grid at HAR 2009. During the previous three editions of this Dutch hacker camp (spanning 12 years), I had stayed at somebody else’s tent, and had relied on my host to make sure power, Internet and beer ran right up to two metres from my bed. This year my host couldn’t make it, and I suddenly realized that hooking up all these necessities (except the beer: I’ll live) takes actual work. With the help of Orangemaster as a sort of phone-based TomTom for locating missing cables I eventually succeeded.

The invisible fellow below kept watch over the camp yesterday. The next morning he was gone. Maker: unknown.

Previously: Hacking at Random: hackers in the bible belt


Hacking at Random: hackers in the bible belt

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 2:19 pm

har_09_02Yesterday was the start of the official, lecture-filled part of Hacking at Random, an episode of a Dutch hackers convention that takes place every four years under a different name and at a different location. This year’s HAR is situated at Nunspeet, in the Dutch bible belt, and as always has a strong emphasis on debating the confluence of politics and technology.

Speakers this year include the guy who’s getting a camera planted in an empty eye socket, the people who make prostheses for 50 bucks instead of 250,000 (presumably we’re not talking about eyes anymore), IP/IT lawyer Arnout Engelfriet, and the infamous BREIN organisation, the Dutch ‘RIAA’.

If I have the time, I will report on the activities from the scene of the action in future postings.

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