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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!

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.

Welcome to T.E.S.L.A.

Hello, friend!

We’re very excited to have you here, on our brand new, shiny website/blog!

This will be the place where you can come to get updates on what we’re currently working on over at T.E.S.L.A., or, if you don’t already know who/what T.E.S.L.A. is, this will be an “information center” of sorts. Poke around! Learn all about who we are, and what we’re all about. We’re absolutely excited to invite new people into our world and share ideas and information. To get a general idea regarding what we’re all about, check out our “About Us” page.

Thanks for stopping by, and we look forward to your future visits!