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Checkin in

Ohaidare. Just wanted to touch base with those of you who follow what we’re up to.

For one thing, there have been some problems with our location. Severe roof leaks + lack of heat = not fun to be in the space. So lately we’ve been workshopping individually and letting our projects live in our homes rather than the shop. A shame, we know – but over the next six weeks, we’re rebooting the room and getting things back up to snuff. For the time being, public workshops aren’t being run due to this. We’re starting back up on 3/14 with the regular weekly open lab, and figuring out other workshops and projects for when things are stable again.

In the meantime, we’ve reached out to another educational co-op in the area, The Worcester Area Think Tank. They are a local academic co-op for young adults looking to further their educational endeavors by providing and interactive learning environment. Head over to their site and check out what they’re up to – it’s a brilliant project, and TESLA is extremely excited to be contributing to their upcoming technology program in the spring.

Also, we are undergoing some reorganization at the shops down on Webster St. Currently, the various artists and artisans are working towards tighter organization, facility renovation, and much more activity. More on that as it develops.

Keep an eye on our many social network outlets, as well as this site, for updates on our projects and shop. Definitely looking forward to lots of revamping over the next couple months, as well as an awesomely active spring!

Congress is taking aim at the internet…

Right now, there is a Congressional hearing about SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act. This is a bill that’s designed to curb media piracy on the internet, as the name implies. As bitizens in this here lovely Gridspace, of course we take interest in legislation that may impact how the net works and how we interact with it.

First things first – in simplest terms, SOPA is bad. Very very bad. Not because we all love to steal media, though affecting that would definitely be an inconvenience. No, SOPA is bad because it will certainly cap the amount of fair use creativity and democracy that we’ve all come to love here. It’s like the DMCA on a meth-steroid cocktail.

If you’re unaware, the DMCA is a law that allows copyright holders to take down infringing material on the internet. Anything remotely infringing. Used a copyrighted song for the soundtrack to your family photo montage? Subject to takedown. Cleverly captioned a photo from Fox’s website? Down. And so forth.

Not to mention that the DMCA has been misused in several cases, resulting in bogus takedowns and legal ramifications that the average person is ill-equipped to handle. The DMCA is the law that the RIAA and MPAA use to sue people for millions of dollars. These laws, designed to attack large-scale piracy, have been used to file suits against teenagers and the elderly. Most people will settle out of court when faced with a team of corporate lawyers.

Something to keep in mind – Justin Bieber became famous because of a video on Youtube where he was singing copyrighted R&B songs. In a world where SOPA is allowed to pass, he would face five years in jail. So you wanna be goofy and post a video of you lipsynching Ke$ha to your channel? You could face legal action.

Another something to keep in mind – this exact same kind of legal discussion came up during the advent of the VCR. The MPAA argued that this device amounted to nothing more than an easy way to steal movies. The same mentality is being applied to technologies like BitTorrent, which is regularly employed in distributing perfectly legal content.

The Congressional hearing today only had one voice for the tech sector – Google. No other company, foundation, or organization was granted the ability to speak about this bill. Additionally, it has been recently redrafted in order to allow quick passage. It’s clear that this bill is intended as a cash cow for media companies, while diluting the quality of content on the Grid.

In essence, this kind of legislation is a sanctioned shakedown at the behest of Big Media. It goes much further than just mass-produced DVDs stamped out by the millions in China – this can and will be leveraged against the average American so big business can further profit.

Please, contact your senator and urge them to oppose SOPA by any means necessary if you want the Grid as we know it to survive. Go to The Electronic Frontier Foundation to find out more about this bill, and how to voice your opposition to the bill.

In Which We Kicked it with Nerds

Hey y’all – been a bit since we updated, but that’s because we’ve been keeping ourselves quiet over the summer. Figured now would be as good a time as any to update, since we kicked back off with a show this weekend – Lost Profit$, The Grand Arkanum, Jon Von Wonderful, Shane Hall, Dezrah the Strange and.. oh, what was his name? Orite. MC Frontalot. :)

We had a HELL of a good time with everyone who came out, show was tight, people were awesome, and the whole shebang was pretty much the best. Even got the obligatory “pics or it didn’t happen” pic.



SO. Now that’s done, we’re gearing up for madness in the coming months. For one thing, we’ve got our eyes on some oolong-term projects, and haven’t really settled on which to do first. That’s where all y’all come in. Here’s your shortlist of projects we’re considering – which to tackle first?

A) A set of arcade machines, loaded down with classic console and arcade games.
B) A massive multi-touch table for collaborative creating and.. well, because it’s just cool.
C) A low-powered radio broadcast station.

Let us know where you’d like us to go! Keep in mind, we’ll be working on all of these things – this is more of a question of which to get to first.

And in the meantime, we got an open lab this Wednesday, where we’re gonna be talking on softmodding classic XBoxes, as well as playing with game emulators and messing about with a few other consoles. Stop by, tune in, rock out.

The Wherefore

So far, we’re absolutely amazed at how energized and excited people are at the prospect of a collaborative DIY center in Worcester, even people who don’t really adhere to the DIY ethic. We’ve had people talk to us about what we’re trying to do, and they get the same twinkle of excitement in their cornea that us Makers do, simply at the prospect of something interesting happening. It’s inspiring.

We’re learning that the hackerspace should be a fixture in any community, no different from a local convenience store, cafe, pizza shop, or gas station. This is a technologically saturated world, and it only makes sense that there be some kind of place to obtain affordable service and training with this technology. Long ago, hackers were seen as sorcerers, who understood the hidden tongue spoken by electrons.

Those days are over, folks. Yes, there are skills that will be beyond most end users, but it isn’t magic. I don’t know about you, but we’re a bit fed up with encountering users who look at me quizzically when we use the word “defrag.” This is basic PC maintenance, and most people who own a computer don’t even know how to do it. It’s like not knowing that your car ever needs its oil changed, or being completely oblivious to the fact that the stench coming off of you means that you need to bathe.

That’s a huge part of why we’re doing this. The average user has spent too long at their system’s whim. And when that system doesn’t behave how they’d like (often due to poor maintenance or ignorance) they just junk it and buy a new one. That’s a bad decision on many levels – for one, it’s wasteful. For another, it’s lazy. And it’s not the user’s fault – they don’t know any better, don’t know what’s out there for alternatives, and are typically oblivious to the fact that they can choose what to do with their computer.

We’re here to help that. We want more people to know how to use basic office applications. We want more people running linux on their old computer instead of pitching it into a landfill. We want to empower people when it comes to how things work – on the desktop and beyond.

But most of all, we want that twinkle in everyone’s eye when they make something work. We want to be so inspired to see the Hacker in everyone come out. Because it’s Hackers who built the best of this world, and the more of us that are around, the better.

New Pages!

If you look up at the top of this page, you’ll notice there are a couple new pages you can access:

Calendar – This is a calendar of our events and workshops. I figure it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Sign Up – Here you can find a quick application to sign up for our organization. This is under construction, so bear with, but you can use this to reach out to the organizers and get involved in what we’re doing.

Portal – Here is the members portal, where you access everything on-domain. Members only.

Lots more to come!

Mayday Heyday Recap

So, MAYDAY HEYDAY was a blast! Big thanks to all of you who came out to see what we’re up to, and to get a feel for the whole complex. If you were there, you know – there’s a lot of something special going on at the Attractor, and we’re so excited to have you involved with it too! The afternoon’s festivities did not disappoint in the slightest. The music was bouncy, the food was delicious, the interest was up, and most of all – people learned things.

Guy Mann ran a LOLcode demonstration, showing the average person the basic structure of a program in an entertaining and fun way. It’s one thing to declare a variable, it’s another thing to say “I CAN HAZ $var.” Definitely entertaining. :)

On the hardware side of things, I had a ball showing people how to make LED throwies – introducing them to the basics of electronic circuits and showing them clever uses for simple components. And the whole place was littered with tiny points of light later on. :)

All in all, we had a lovely time seeing everyone, and very much look forward to more events like these in the future!

We are but mere days away from opening our doors to all you lovely hacker types..

This Sunday, May 1st, starting at 2:00 pm and going til.. well, whenever really.. is MAYDAY HEYDAY!

Blacksmiths! Magicians! Music! Hackers! Barbeque! GODDAMN!

All us DIY folks are unveiling the spot, and opening our house so you can come see what we’re working towards. The whole project (tentatively called The Strange Attractor) is a work always in progress, and we’re all about getting more folks involved.

On a personal note, I’m damn excited to see what comes of all this. This be the summer of Hack, make no mistake – and I have no doubt that it’s going to be a hell of a time.

Salubrious Salutations

Hi there! My name is Jonathan, and I’m the Minister of Face for TESLA. I wanted to take a quick second and say hi and let you know about some of the projects we’re gonna be working on in the coming weeks.

First, I should probably introduce myself. I’m a native of central MA and have spent tons of time tinkering with a variety of electronics. I’m focused on one thing: the use of technology to convey meaning. To be able to achieve that, I’ve spent countless hours learning and exploring various aspects of technology, from computers to embedded electronics. I’m handy with a soldering iron, well-versed in audio software, and an unapologetic evangelist for Free and Open Source software.

Along the way, I’ve gained a bit of a hacktivist stance. I’ve followed the political and social aspect of the hacker culture for years now. Right now, we’re in very exciting times, as the Maker movement has gained so much ground and groups like Anonymous are being noticed for their hijinks. The hackers have very much come into their own, and are much less of a niche subculture than before.

A side effect of this is the advent of the hackerspace, which is what TESLA is about. It’s a collaborative workshop, a place where the hacker mentality can flourish and grow. We exist to impart knowledge and skill, and to show others how to get technology to convey their meaning. The hackerspace is fast becoming a fixture in the community, a nerve center for all the tribal knowledge the once-reclusive hacker has. We’re here so you don’t have to call the Geek Squad when your computer stops working right. We’re here to show you how to create that nifty program or gadget you dreamed up the other night. We’re here to help.

And so, TESLA is opening its doors and having a launch event on May 1st, 2011 called MAYDAY HEYDAY. It’s an open house with some barbeque, music, magic, and tinkering. TESLA will have its doors open with projects ready for you to poke around with. We’ll be giving tours of the whole facility, and looking for your input about how to make this spot the Arts & Artisan complex it so richly deserves to be.

Through May, I’m going to be working on the TESLArcade. This is an arcade cabinet straight from our workshop to your lounge, in an effort to revive the social aspect of video games. We’ll be making a few of these for some local businesses, and I’ll be documenting the process as I go. You’ll be hearing from the rest of the Admin crew in coming days, and about the projects they’ll be working on for this spring.

So, welcome to TESLA!