How Hackerspaces Spend Money

Running a hackerspace is no easy task. One of the biggest issues is money — how to collect in dues and donations, managing it, and how to spend it. Everyone has different interests and would like to see the budget go to their favorite project or resource. Milwaukee Makerspace has come up with a novel way to handle this. Members pay $40 a month in dues. $35 of that goes into the general budget. The member themselves can pick where the last $5 goes.

Using the hackerspace’s software, members chose where their $5 goes each month. It can all be spent in one area or split up among different resources at the hackerspace. Members choose from many different interests like the 3D printing area, the laser lab, the forge, or specific projects like the power racing series. This results in a budget for each area which can be used for materials and parts. It also gives the hackerspace board of directors information on which resources people are interested in, and which they aren’t.

In the current budget, no one is supporting the anodizing area, but lots of people are supporting the laser lab. This is just the sort of information the board could use when planning. Perhaps they could store the anodizing tools and expand the laser lab. Click through to the link above and see how this year’s cash voting panned out.

Of course, all this only works if you have a hackerspace with plenty of active members. In Milwaukee’s case, they have about 300 members. Would this work for your hackerspace? Let us know down in the comments!

Life on Contract: How Much Do I Charge?

If you’re comfortable with the technical side of becoming a consultant or contractor but are unsure what to charge for your services, you’re not alone. “How much do I charge?” is a tough question, made even tougher by the fact that discussing money can be awkward, and at times virtually taboo.

As a result it’s not uncommon for the issue to get put off because it’s outside one’s comfort zone. Technical people in particular tend to suffer from an “if you build it, they will come” mentality; we get the technical side of things all figured out and just sort of assume that the rest — customers, money, and so forth — will fall into place afterward. If you’re lucky, it will! But it’s better to do some planning.

The short and simple answer of how much to charge is a mix of “it depends” and “whatever the market bears” but of course, that’s incredibly unhelpful all by itself. It’s time to make the whole process of getting started a bit less opaque.

A stubborn determination to solve my own problems has given me plenty of opportunity to make mistakes and commit inefficiencies over the years; I’ve ended up with a process that works for me, but I also happen to think it is fairly generally applicable. Hopefully, sharing the lessons I’ve learned will help make your own process of figuring out what to charge easier, or at least make the inevitable blunders less costly.

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Creepy Robot Really Wants Money…

As technology advances forward so does the numerous ways to beg for money. [Chris Eckert] has developed a robot to do the deed for him.  With an odd  eye mounted on the top of the robot to invoke pity presumably and a tin can out front to collect change from people it may encounter this is quite the hobo robot.  On his build log, you’ll find tons of great pictures of the entire process from start to finish.  With robots sent to beg people for money, it is only a matter of time until the first squeegee robot is cleaning your car at a red light.  Make sure to check out the video after the break.

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Hacking an iButton

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Maxim’s iButtons, which are small ICs in button-sized disks, are starting to show up in more and more places. They have a range of uses, from temperature loggers to identification, and all use the 1-wire protocol to communicate. Over a furrtek, they hacked an iButton used for buying things from vending machines and created an infinite money cheat. They built a small rig based on the ATmega8 to read and write data to the chip. The data was encrypted, so it wasn’t feasible to put an arbitrary amount on the card. Instead, they used a similar technique to the Boston subway hack and restored a previous state to the iButton after something was bought. They also created a hand-held device to backup and restore the contents of a button for portable hacking.

[Thanks furrtek]