Visit MadLab in Eindhoven 7-2-2013

So today ( 6-Feb-2013 ) I went to visit our local so called "Hackerspace" . It's this one here : http://madlab.nl/madspace

From their site :
MADspace is the Eindhoven hackerspace. Members gather to work on collaborative projects, discuss and meet informally. Every week a meeting is scheduled on Wednesday evening, and regularly a workshop or hackathon is organized. The MADspace Blog can be found here: http://blog.madspace.nl/ MADspace MEETUP here: http://www.meetup.com/MADspace/

My reasons for visiting :

I recently got into contact with a very nice englishman via Ebay because I wanted to buy an 80s homecomputer called a Memotech MTX. His name is Sam and we got into chatting about the reasons why I wanted to buy such an old computer. I explained to him I am trying to set up an interactive home computer 'museum' where people can come in and physically interact with the computers that spawned a whole generation of IT specialists. You see, those computers had a basic interpreter right from the moment you turned them on. You only had a blinking cursor and in those days, software was hard to come by ( not to say very very expensive ) so what most young guys from my generation did was to program on it , in Basic. I remember me typing away my basic program on my first computer on our local V&D ( shopping mall ) who displayed a TI99/4A. I typed in my little programs and enjoyed the moments people would pass , watch that weird thing being displayed and actually played my basic game. That was the moment I decided to make it my career. I would like to pass the 'spark' to mainly young people with this interactive computer lab. Too many young people shy away from technology these days and it is becoming a huge problem in The Netherlands.
Turns out this englishman is a fervent supporter of his local hacker space, even though he is well beyond his pension age , he still likes to support people with this passion because it reminds him of the days when he was young and got into contact with technology. He even casually mentioned the fact that he made coffee for and quizzed the famous Alan Turing ( You know , from the Turing Machine ). This was also the moment I decided to visit our local hacker space so I guess you could say he prompted me to this visit I had today. I was curious as to see what the Eindhoven hacker space community was all about. Thanx Sam, I hope you get the opportunity to give a lecture on the opening of my 'museum'...

The Visit :

So I entered the MadSpace and immediately found out I wasn't well prepared. Of course I needed to bring a computer. Everybody had one, but I just completely and utterly forgot how intertwined Hackers are with computers. I also turned up an hour too late , so I entered well within the lecture by Ir. Paul Wagener. ( Something went wrong with the agenda invitation ). About 12 people showed up and it was a bit crowded , you see , MadLab is used for a lot of purposes, but mainly for people working on creative projects, the space wasn't really meant to give a presentation, but for this it just worked out. If more people would have showed up there would definitely be a space problem. I got myself a chair and positioned myself next to Joost who was kind enough to let me watch what he was doing for the tutorial. MadSpace provided the WiFi so everybody could access the internet. This was also needed because Paul prepared a very good presentation on GIT ( a version control system ) and it was very interactive. The flow of the tutorial first made you create a local repository and then sync up with the repo at github.com. Since I already worked with GIT ( by using Drupal ) I knew a lot of commands already. What I noticed about the differences with a version control system I use a lot ( SVN ) is that the system seems more friendly in command prompt use , but when I attach Tortoise/Cornerstone to an SVN repo I can do almost the same things GIT can do in a shell. So all in all if I were to work in a shell and needed a VCS I'd use GIT, but for dev work on for instance a windows or mac machine I use Subversion with Tortoise for the PC and Cornerstone for the Mac.
Paul did his homework well : he prepared little assignments and everybody was invited to try out their newly gained GIT commands and he walked around to check if everything he said made sense. At the end of the tutorial he taught us to 'sync' between our local repositories and his repository he had on GitHub. This showed me something I did not see before : the graphical branch viewer is excellent and runs from any browser on Github. Really well done, the only problem I see with the business model for GitHub is that they ask money for Repos which are not public. So you only get a free account if you share everything you code. For open source projects this is perfect! But for a business this could be a serious issue since companies I worked for would never disclose their code in such a way. So they would have to get a paid account, but then there is that free alternative called SVN ( Which I set up in just a few hours on my own server ) and is also extremely well supported. So I guess, github is mainly used ( and perfect ) for open source projects and as I understood from the talks that sparked between the MadLab members this is also the case.

When the knowledge transfer was finished, a talk started about the goal and purpose of the hacker space and how each viewed the direction that was chosen for the group as a whole. I'm not going into a detailed description of what I saw and heard, but it was a good moment for me to view the coherence of the group. You see, they only formed a group like they are now only about a year ago and I could sense 'growing' pains. I'm impressed with what has been achieved until now, I mean, it's not easy to get a group like this together every week and certainly it can't be easy to have interesting topics every week, but somehow the group formed and got into the state it was what I saw today. I could sense the passion for technology I have had since I first created my basic game on that TI99/4A so it was really really nice to feel that vibe again.

The End :

I had a chance to talk in great length with some of the MadSpace members and I jumped into the unknown by proposing to have a 'brainstorm' session on one of my ideas called Harmoneco@ ( see harmoneco.nl : currently only the scaled down version is online, but you can see the ultra cool logo and some proto's ). My idea was to have the floor for about 15 minutes during one of their next meetings ( they meet up weekly on wednesday ) and discuss the Harmoneco@ idea. Basically the idea is to measure your water, electricity and gas meters , push this info onto a local webserver so no info goes out of your house and based on that info generate an optimal advice for the household as to where they should go best for a supplier( of gas, electricity and water ). I would be looking for ideas regarding the implementation of the device. Ultimately I would like to invite members of the group to collectively put their shoulders under it , since it would allow each participant to learn new methods, technologies, languages and maybe a completely new discipline ( for instance 3D cad design, 3D printing, Embedded hard- and software design, PHP/MYSQL, Javascript, ready fire AIM as a process and who knows what else? )
Next week I will be given a chance to talk about this idea and I will of course write about the outcome on my blog.

All in all I'd like to thank MadLab, MadSpace and Paul Wagener for the experience. I came home very late, and mostly that is a good sign :-)