Paul Makepeace ;-)

September 27, 2004

Dorkbot London classic!

Posted in: Events, Tech

Last Wednesday's Dorkbot, its return after way, way too long was a real treat. The evening went from self-modifying music software being edited by its author and itself in real-time, to an oil-painting of a stereogram (a celebration of functionlessness aka "being shit"), progressing from a clock made from a Mark's & Spencer's prawn sandwich(!), into the possibility of using other people's wireless networks to communicate without their knowing, and finally quite possibly the coolest ever wiki.

Saul Albert (one of the Dorkbot London co-dork-founders-organisers) wrote up a nice review of it that I've posted below with his kind permission.

(To hear about these events in advance check out my events mailing list and the archives and upcoming.)

Saul sez (my comments interpersed):

Well, Alex Mclean started by doing something he said he'd never do : talkthrough a website (!) but it *was* a very interesting on: - the Temporary Organisation for the Propagation of Live Algorythmic Programming. He introduced us to the idea of 'grades' - equivalent to grades you get when learning the piano but insisting instead that in order to attain Toplap grade 2 you have to be able to make nice music with the system bleep. Then he gave a very engaging example of how LAP works - writing several little sound making scripts from scratch and explaining as he went along how he was doing it. My favorite bit was when PaulM demonstrated the new and wonderfully expanded possibilities for heckling (heckling?! helping! - Paul) this kind of performance by shouting,

'You've missed a parenthesis on the end!'

And (more in keeping with tradition) throwing a half full bottle of white lightning cider at the stage. (er, this is a joke - Paul)

Alex mentioned that he'd written an article about this that has links to source code:

Rory Macbeth talked wonderfully about his evil nauseating magic eye paintings - and how they're a bit like abstract art with a little hidden trick or reward for people who know 'what it means' but really because it's done in a kind of 60's splash painting style the magic eye bit doens't work so it's actually a kind of nauseating representational painting of a magic eye painting, but then he plugged the bloody thing in and it started vibrating - emulating how magic eye paintings do that shimmering thing when you try focus on them, which made the whole thing really quite impossibly stupid. I wanted to buy this painting from rory but he won't take any money and said if I wanted it I was probably stupid enough to deserve it.

Then what can I say, James Larsson demonstrated his prawn sandwich based clock, an expanded version of the too-compressed presentation he made at notcon (but I will link to that cos there's a video: Interestingly, the clock was extremely accurate (well, within an hour and a half) which is very impressive considering that we only gave James three days notice - which in these terrible days of over-processed preservative-filled-food, wasn't really enough to rot a Marks and Spencer's prawn sandwich to the point of complete deadliness when it becomes unstable enough to produce interesting changes in the conductivity and electrical resistance of the bread, mayo and prawns.

Paul: This presentation really was as engaging and funny as any I've seen at dorkbot. James simply IS a mad scientist and was kind enough to give me the technical low-down. The system worked by measuring the decrease over time in the conductivity of the bread versus the change in capacitance of the prawn as it decayed. The mayo's resistance (IIRC?) was tracked too. A BBC Micro with its built-in 4-channel 12bit ADC provided the logging. The resulting three-variable plot was collated into an enormous array which provided a list of "events" both in absolute value changes and variables relative to one another, as I understood it. So the clock was event driven and would move about 40-60mins each event. (I also had a fascinating pub-chat and lift home with James during which time we talked a bunch of other esoteric stuff -- fantastic!)

Then Jeremy Ruston presented the wonderful TiddlyWiki and gave a very useful breakdown of how wikis work, and how tiny bits of microcontent (tiddlers) can help to merge the facility of blogs to organise and produce microcontent with the non-linear and collaborative way that wikis structure things. Rory Macbeth who continually apologised for not knowing about or being able to do anything with computers (which is not true - I know Rory and he has magic computer fingers that can destroy hardware, corrupt files and crash otherwise stable software for no reason within seconds of him sitting down to check his email) said that he understood TiddlyWiki and would consider using it.

Then Matt Westervelt got up and presented this very cheeky hack: Other People's Networks - a (fictional, but possible) hack to take advantage of the noise of 802.11x spectrum usage in big cities by using Other People's Networks to move network traffic between people who want to route between each other's networks - but can't see each other, because Other People are in the way, or at least, Other People's Networks are visible to both. I didn't get any pictures of Matt's presentation - which is a pity. Did anyone else? That's it!

Paul: I got the technical low-down on this one too. Quite honestly, I barely understood it but here goes anyway: the idea is to use the increasing number of open routers not to leech their HTTP access but, by hacking your own wifi driver at Layer 2, associate to multiple networks and employ some kind of multicast shenanigans that will be relayed 'under the radar' by the Other People's Networks. Neat idea; as yet unimplemented.

next dorkbot: wednesday 20th October 2004, state51, then the third wednesday of every month.

Cheers, Saul.

Posted by Paul Makepeace at September 27, 2004 23:00 | TrackBack

hey paul! Thanks for putting my ranty email on one of these blog things :)

Posted by: saul at September 28, 2004 09:23
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