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Thanks for all the support! And what's coming up | Print |
Written by Akiba   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Hi all.

I just wanted to write a post thanking everyone for all the support. I received a lot of great feedback and Tokyo Hackerspace received enough donations to buy another 100 solar cells for the solar lanterns. The solar cells and the PCBs are the most important because they can't be sourced locally. That brings us up to 150 lanterns that will get produced once all the parts arrive. I'm going to turn the hackerspace into a sweat shop. Definitely a good way for people to learn how to solder.

I'll be trying to get back to some semblance of normal life tomorrow. The news feeds should hopefully resume tomorrow as well.

Things were so crazy the past few days that it took a lot of mental and emotional stamina just to stay sane. I was luckily able to overcome the initial shock of the earthquake, tsunami, and then hearing that multiple reactors were melting down just around the corner. There was also the race to get emergency supplies since all bottled water and dry goods were selling out quickly on Saturday. One thing they don't tell you is that the reason you need to stock up on emergency supplies is because mass hysteria will create a shortage very quickly. On top of that, people were freaking out right and left (mostly outside of Japan) and needed to be calmed down. 

In the hackerspace, we got together last night and decided on the upcoming projects to deal with the events that have unfolded. We'll be assembling the lanterns which will probably be needed for some time. The northern region of Japan will probably not get properly wired up for electricity for quite some time so many people that stay in the region will be spending their nights in the dark. We're also going to start testing out long distance Wi-Fi connections to see if we can spread and distribute basic internet access for people to communicate. Hopefully we can get Asterisk and SIP phones going so that people can communicate easily, even if they don't have phone service. I've already stockpiled six wireless routers and made sure that they can be flashed with DD-WRT. 

To deal with the nuclear situation, we ordered two Geiger counters that were thankfully supplied by Reuseum. There is worldwide hysteria at the moment on radiation clouds and just about all commercial geiger counter outlets are sold out. He stepped in and sold us two nuclear facility grade geiger counters out of his stock and is having them FedEx'd to Japan. That will help us calm people down, both in the hackerspace, and Tokyo in general. We'll be UStreaming the geiger counters so that people can see the live readings in the short term.

In the long term, I've ordered ten geiger tubes and we'll be assembling prototype geiger counters based on the Arduino. Once we get them working, we'll be distributing them among members in the hackerspace and set up a distributed radiation sensor network around Tokyo. We'll hopefully be working with Geigercrowd which just sprang up after this whole crisis happened. The real worry of many people here is the lingering effects of radiation and the public does not trust the government numbers very much at the moment. So setting up an open, independent, and distributed network of radiation monitors should come in very useful. There are already many people in the hackerspace that have volunteered their services for this project. There's a lot of enthusiasm because this project benefits all volunteers and pretty much anyone that falls in range of the network. Once we get the Tokyo sensor network stable, then we'll be rolling it out to the more stricken areas. I'll definitely keep everyone posted on that. 

We also had some members at the meeting that volunteered for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. They said that now is not the time to go to Northern Japan since only people trained in Search and Rescue, ie: first responders should be there now. Volunteers just consume resource that might be used to save people's lives. The most dangerous time is a few weeks to months after the event when the newsvans leave, search and rescue moves on, and people forget about the crisis. Interestingly enough, one of the things that was really needed during Katrina were coloring and activity books for children since they were largely neglected amid the stress at the shelters. Small things like that are often forgotten, but the stress on children must be enormous right now. Anyways, we're setting our eyes on that timeframe when the glory is gone but the victims are still suffering. Now, we're trying to plan and prep for projects that start about 1-2 months out. 

All in all, that's pretty much how things are at the moment. Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still sane, Tokyo is not an apocalyptic hell-hole that the news makes it out to be, and I'm glad there are groups out there like Tokyo Hackerspace that can turn a string of horrific catastrophes into a chance to geek out and save lives. 

Hackerspaces rule!

P.S. I have some good stuff for the shop that I was planning to roll out, but this week kind of crushed my plans. Should hopefully have some fun things in the near future. Stay tuned and stay safe :)

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Meshed WiFi
written by mungewell, March 17, 2011
DD-WRT may not be the best option regarding re-flashing routers as you will have to plan out infrastructure, you may be better off with a meshed system like Friefunk. If you can get hardware on site, make sure that you also get information going with it.

I'd also be tempted to send flash drives/micro SSD's with VoIP (etc) apps so that they can be installed on 'local' hardware. Takes no additional space in shipping.

Good luck.
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written by Akiba, March 17, 2011
Thanks for the suggestion. Do they have an English website? Gonna look more into that.
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food hacker coming from Noisebridge, SF
written by Frantisek Algoldor Apfelbeck, March 17, 2011
Really good info, great work!
I've posted your info on Noisebridge/Tastebridge webpage under the project of Japan help relief or rather reconstruction help

https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Direct_Disaster_Response_to_Japan

I want to get in touch with your hacker space asap to discuss what can be done and possibly propose projects in food hacking/biotech which are my domain. Keep going I'll be hitting Japan before 26/3/2011 getting budget and equipment to help as I can, will be discussed soon.
Sincerely,
Frantisek
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written by Akiba, March 17, 2011
Thats awesome. I'll forward the link to the other hackerspace members. You can join our mailing list on google groups: http://groups.google.com/group/tokyohackerspace/

However, I do have to say that within the first 3 weeks, its best not to try and go up to the quake area unless you have search and rescue or specific skills. The reason is that volunteers are not being accepted by most organizations at the moment, and the ones we know that did make it up there sat in a room watching the news. The problem is that volunteers consume food and supplies that can be used to save others.

We're planning on going up in about a month when the main rescue operations are over and the real work of rebuilding and coping begin.

Anyways, hope I'm not discouraging you. Its pretty much what we've been hearing from organizations. You can check here, which describes what types of things are needed by NGOs in Japan now:

http://japanvolunteers.wordpress.com/volunteers/
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written by Akiba, March 17, 2011
Hmmm...figures. A few hours after I posted the link, they're starting to look for volunteers. Looks like you have a chance if you come down. When you come down, check in with us and come hang out. We'll likely be working with the organizations for the rebuilding phase.
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English information on Freifunk
written by BenBE, March 18, 2011
First off, nice news from your side and keep the good work up!

Second: Englisch information on Freifunk are available from there Wiki. Have a look at
http://wiki.freifunk.net/Kategorie:English

and follow the information there. I'm currently helping with building a Freifunk network in Chemnitz and there mostly with the software part; although I'm just getting started with reading through the code; but there are quite many people ready to help you with the setup (both software and hardware).

The Software itself both can be used on many routers but it's also quite easy getting it to run on your normal computer or notebook. Feel free to join the IRC and ask for anything you need help with.

Third: What's the status of your participation in the GeigerCloud project? What's the overall situation over at Tokyo?

Keep up your work and efforts!
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Lantern PCBs
written by Harry, March 19, 2011
We just got a local PCB fab to agree to donate a batch of boards for your lanterns. We're looking for sources for solar cells and the rest of the components too. If you have some time email jose at heatsynclabs.org to coordinate.
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written by Akiba, March 19, 2011
Awesome. We're getting our solar cells from Futurlec. 150 of them are on their way as well as 175 PCBs. The extras are because we'll be teaching people how to solder so we're expecting a few mistakes. It seems Futurlec is in stock on the cells since they sent them 1 day after ordering.
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written by Scott Bridges, April 05, 2011
Does anyone have PCBs or complete kits that they can sell at this time? Or, perhaps I can get the solar cells direct from futurlec if anyone has the PCBs and remaining parts? I'm in Haiti, so sourcing parts is difficult.

Thanks,

Scott
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