Getting Back Into Hackerspaces

Last week, I got my first chance to get out and about among the hackers in what feels like forever. Hackerspaces here in Germany are finally able to re-open for business-as-almost-usual, allowing access to reasonable numbers of people providing they’re immunized or tested, and wearing masks of course. And that meant that I got to take up [Andreas’] invitation to come see his Stereo Ninja inspection microscope project in person.

Stereo Ninja basically makes clever use of two Raspberry Pi cameras, swaps out the optics for greater enlargement, and displays the results on a 3D monitor — to be viewed with shutter glasses. This is one of those projects that you really have to see in person to “get it”. He’s still working on stripping the build down to make it simpler and more affordable, to make the project more accessible to the average hacker.

We talked about DIYing a 3D monitor. It turns out that the shutter glasses are cheap, and it looks like they’re synced by an IR pulse to the monitor. There should be a hacker solution for 3D to work with a fast gaming monitor at least. [Andreas] also pointed me to this great breakout board for the Raspberry Pi CM4 that breaks out both camera lanes for easy stereo / 3D capture. I got the tour of the FabLab, and we talked welding, metal 3D printing, software, hardware and assorted nerdy stuff. [Alex] showed up on his way out of town for the weekend — it’d been ages since we hung out.

In short, I remembered how it used to be in the before-times, when visits with other hackers, and to other hackerspaces, were possible. There’s this spontaneous and mutually inspirational kind of chat that’s just impossible remotely, and is tremendously important.

We’re not done with the COVID pandemic yet, I fear, and different parts of the world have entirely different trajectories. If you told me two years ago that I would be visiting hackerspaces with a mask and proof-of-vaccination, I would have thought you were crazy. But at the same time this brief visit gave me a little boost of hope for the future. We will get through all of this, and we’ll all meet up again at our local hackerspaces.

14 thoughts on “Getting Back Into Hackerspaces

  1. Very cool.
    I am a member at HeatSync Labs in Mesa, AZ, USA.

    We have been working to bring back events and public hours, trying to follow the CDC guidelines as best as is possible, and get our doors back open to some kind of normalcy. It’s been a struggle to say the least and I don’t exactly know how we’ll make the transition still.

    A lot of spaces have not made it or are still mothballed waiting for the right time to decide what their future will be post pandemic. I am glad that other spaces are at least trying, because hackerspaces offer a place like no other to clear your mind, come up with a concept, and see it through to it’s completion, failure, or next evolution. Things have been crazy, and although it’s been done to death, none of us really know what the ‘new normal’ will look like as the situation progresses and changes.

    1. What I’m personally worried about is the lack of debate around these measures. Doing a QR scan at every shop, restaurant, hackerspace etc is incredibly privacy invasive. And it doesn’t really add any security for people who are vaccinated (like me). I’d be permitted in anyway after I show my QR.

      So, the point is twofold I guess. First, it gives people a sense of safety that’s not really rooted in anything. After all, check or not most of us are allowed in anyway. Check or not, I’m still going to be able to sit in the same restaurant. So what does it really change?

      Secondly, it provides some pressure on those who are not vaccinated because now they have to get tested every 2 days to go about their business. But we as the vaccinated population have to sacrifice a lot of our privacy for this pressure on other people. If it’s really *that* important, I think we should consider to just make the vaccine mandatory and get it over with.

      However bringing these points up usually gets you ridiculed as a covid denier. I don’t deny covid but I think we should be careful to balance what we give up and what we gain.

  2. Was the IR stereo solution NVIDIA 3D Vision? I’ve used that forever and it’s very frustrating that NVIDIA has retired that technology and there’s no replacement for it on the market. It was crucial to my PhD work and now I’m in the aerospace industry and my workplace relies on this technology which is no longer being manufactured or updated. I would be willing to put a lot of work into developing an open source / hardware replacement, but I suspect that NVIDIA patents will render any such attempts DOA. Please let me know if there’s any solution…

    1. Yes, using Nvidia 3d vision indeed. The current idea is to reserve some pixels at the edge of the screen to indicate what eye the image is meant for and sense that with a photo diode. With IR shutter glasses it should be easy to pass that info on to the glasses.
      Agreed, no a very elegant solution, but would be a cheap hack for my needs. It does not involve any 3d graphics driver, so I’m not sure if it would help for your use case.

  3. Its been a hard time. I helped found our makerspace 11 years ago, and over the pandemic ive been the president of it, its hard to see the number of members dwindle as this drags on. Its also been very cathartic to see the good things that folks have built, and done, and continue to repair and upgrade around the place. We have been hosting small open houses (masked and distasnced) on one night a week to keep the community alive.

    1. Shit, as a director of another space it’s been brutal trying to keep my space alive. Between members who’ve ghosted, limited events, and general ay to day life difficulties members and directors have been under it’s just rough. I’m beyond ready to pass the torch of keeping the place alive and i’ve been involed with spaces about as long as you, but it feels like stepping back might just kick a leg holding the place alive out from under it.

  4. Thank you for writing about the pandemic concerns and the care that you guys are going to in order to try and return safely. There are quite a few groups around the world that are coming together and just trusting to vaccination and the honor system so they can pretend things are back to normal.

    This is especially true in the music / DJ community where I spend a lot of my time. They’ve brought events back for monthes and doing the minimum possible to do it. Its helping to spread the disase and even the headliner DJs are regularly coming down sick. I know of several people in my online community that have been hospialized, and have some people in real life that have lost family to this thing. …and 2 of those lost were vaccinated. (immunocompromised people fon’t get as much benefit from the vax.)

    If everyone were as careful as you guys instead of being opportunist or hiding their heads in the sand… we really would have only had to quaranting for that first 2 weeks to a month and Delta never would have caught hold like it has.

    1. Well, we have more or less completely opened up society again here in Norway. Yes the numbers of infections are going up somewhat (mostly among t he unvaccinated), but the number of hospitalizations are very low and few who test positive actually get sick. Time to get back to normal.

      And no, we would not have had to lock down and or quarantine for only the first 2 weeks to a month if people had “behaved”… You do realize that in order for there to be any truth in that you would have to stop transmission of the virus globally for whatever time would be necessary for the virus to disappear?

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