Hi everyone.

Just a heads up that a project we're working on out here at hackerfarm, called TechRice, made it into Hackaday. If you have a chance, check it out here:

Sensor Net Makes Life Easier for Rice Farmers

Last week, Wrecking Crew Orchestra wrapped up their Cosmic Beat show which I helped out with. There were six performances in total, three in Osaka and three in Tokyo and it was a blast working on it with them. They recently published the opening set from the show which featured Wrecking Crew Orchestra, EL Squad. This was the group that made a big splash with "Tron Dance" in 2012.  

The Cosmic Beat show used quite a bit of modern stage technology including projection mapping and laser graphics. For projection mapping, they were using two 20,000 lumen projectors for the set projection and worked with a VFX company on the graphics for the mapping. We also worked with Shinichi Suzuki, aka "Laser Master", from Akari Center in Tokyo who did the laser work and normally does large concert venues. He's a topnotch laser guy and I learned a lot from him about how to operate lasers and laser scanners.

I'm happy to announce that after way too long, the new forum is now online . I switched from using the Joomla Fireboard forums, which are no longer being maintained or developed, to phpBB which has a very active development community. The reason for the switch was that the Joomla forums were easily targeted by forum spammers and I started having to spend a lot of time deleting spam posts from bots. Since Fireboard didn't support standard anti-bot tools like reCaptcha and Kismet, bots could essentially have their way with things. I have to admit that when I first started this site, I didn't give much thought to the tools. Truthfully, I didn't expect many people to visit the site so I just chose whatever was easiest. I now realize what a mistake that was. Ha ha ha. 

The forum should be much better with phpBB since it has many options, features, and plugins. I'm also hoping to make it much easier to share code on the forum. The old forum has been archived and can be reached at the forum menu link on the main menu or on the button at the top right side on the new forums. 

Sorry this took longer than expected. Hopefully I can turn this into a nice community hub for wireless sensor network enthusiasts.


Hi folks.

Just wanted to drop a quick note that I'll be on summer holiday from 8/17 to 8/23/2013. I'll be in Shenzhen taking in the geekery with some friends which will not only provide me with a nice break but also hopefully give me inspiration for my next designs. Sorry for the inconvenience and the shop will be open from 8/23.



A few months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Nami, who works at a company called Loftwork . Loftwork is a design services firm and also the parent company of Fabcafe in Tokyo. She asked me if I wanted to help out with a project in the company to create a Makers group. The main goal of the group was to find DIY solutions to improve the office. They didn’t have a lot of experience in making things themselves so they asked me and a friend of mine, Joe Moross from Safecast, to help out.

One night over a Loftwork dinner that I invited myself to, we were talking about what projects were needed for the group. Nami and the other members proposed an office improvement project to detect when the women’s toilet was occupied. At Loftwork, the majority of the workers are female. On each floor, there’s a one-toilet men’s bathroom and a one-toilet women’s bathroom. Since there are a lot of women working there, the women’s bathroom is often occupied and the girls keep having to get up from their desk, check the toilet, and if its occupied, have to walk back to their desk. Hence, the Loftwork Womens' Toilet Sensor Project was born.

Hi everyone.

I'll be transitioning to a new forum over the next few days and have locked the current forum. Forum spam has gotten out of control and the original forum software I used (Fireboard Forum for Joomla) has very poor controls. When I first started this site, I never considered spam since I barely got any traffic. Since then, traffic has gotten much heavier and I've had to upgrade my hosting account multiple times. The forum transition should be happening this week and it's the start of a site makeover. I'll write a post describing more about it, but suffice it to say I now know what I want in terms of website software whereas things were haphazard when I first started FreakLabs.  More to come later, but sorry for the inconvenience. Forum should be back up by the end of the week.

Whew! Just got back from vacation in the US visiting family and also getting the chance to see the Bay Area Maker Faire for the first time. Actually, it was my first Maker Faire outside of Japan and it blew my mind. The scale of the projects were just on a different level compared to Maker Faire Japan. Projects in Japan are much smaller, mostly because we can’t fit three story fire breathing, steel dragons inside our tiny cramped apartments.

I was on the train coming back from the airport last night when I saw an interesting article at Make Magazine called Why the Maker Movement is Here to Stay. The author, Ken Denmead, discusses an article written on the tech blogging site gigaOm about Sparkfun. Actually, the gigaOm article starts out being about Sparkfun, but towards the end, the author generalizes Sparkfun’s business and business model into the recent surge in popularity of the maker movement. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have thought too deeply about that article except that Ken made some interesting points that got me thinking. In the latter part of the gigaOm article, the author makes an effort to end on a thought provoking note:

"To me, and for others watching the maker movement unfold, SparkFun is a chance to answer what is an important question. How big can the maker movement get?"

Hi everyone.
The FreakLabs store will be on holiday from 05/15/2013 to 06/03/2013 and the shopping cart will be disabled. I'll be traveling to the US to attend Maker Faire and also visit family and friends. I'm really excited since it will be my first Maker Faire and also a welcome holiday for me. Looking forward to the recharge and hopefully to get some new ideas for interesting projects:)
I've had my Casio G-Shock for about 8 years now. In that time, it's run out of batteries on me a few times. The first time, I spoke with a shop and they said they had to send it in to Casio to have the battery replaced. The cost would be around $70 and take about two weeks. I then asked if I could replace it myself and they said it was impossible. I checked on the internet and the batteries are CTL1616 rechargeable Lithium Ion watch batteries. At the time, they were impossible to buy online so the only option was to send it in to Casio. Now, you can get them on eBay and Amazon, but they cost $15/each.

With the workshop closed out, the next two days were reserved for deployment and installation of the sensor nodes. The night before, I had modified the code the participants were using to harden it a bit for an actual deployment. The main thing I added in was a watchdog timer and protection against a few failure scenarios. The main ones I was concerned about were if the software hangs, if it fails to get an IP address, and if it fails to get a connection. I added in an 8 second watchdog timeout for code hangs and also would trigger a reset if the device failed to get an IP address or had a connection failure three consecutive times.

That morning, I had a short meeting with everyone to brief them on what the code changes were and how the deployment would go. I explained the changes I made to the code they worked with and why I made them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time in the labs to cover more advanced topics like watchdog timers, timestamping, and power management. That would need to be saved for future workshops. After the discussion, we packed up our supplies and headed out to the site.


I had one free weekend after arriving at Dharamsala. I contacted Mikey from Air Jaldi, one of the workshop organizers, and he took Jacinta and I around for a site survey and also to discuss the workshop agenda.

The workshop consisted of three major parts. The first part was the actual workshop to teach the participants about sensor networks using Arduino. The second and third parts were actual sensor network deployments at the Tibetan Childrens Village (TCV) and Sarah Tibetan Center for Higher Learning. In both deployments, we’d deploy sonar water level sensors to measure the water level in storage tanks fed by nearby streams, then upload the levels to Cosm servers.