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.

I finished a debugging session yesterday where I had to hunt down a troublesome bug in the chibiArduino stack. It was first brought to my attention last week by a user of the chibiArduino stack who couldn't figure out why it would hang sometimes. He was running four devices with each device broadcasting every 0.1 seconds. It unwittingly created a an interesting stress test in the form of a broadcast storm with an average packet being sent and received by each node every 25 msec. This exposed a problem that I hadn't encountered before, which is strange since I feel like I've used the stack quite a bit.

Before I begin, I'd like to announce that there's an update to the chibiArduino stack with a bug fix in it. You can get it by going here. The rest of this post is long and somehow turned into a story about the hunt for this bug so I'm making the announcement at the beginning for those not interested in hunts for nasty bugs :)

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! I can't believe how much work it was to coordinate the software release of the library and hardware release of the boards together. There was documentation flying all over the place, furious coding, testing on multiple OSes, screenshots, long photography sessions, and somewhere in there, hardware and software testing. I'm glad I did it though because I've been wanting to release a new version of the Freakduino for a long time. Seriously, I've been wanting to do it since 2011, but a series of events changed my whole life. Ha ha ha...

With the latest release of chibiArduino, it's probably best to have a short tutorial on installing things. The library installation is a standard library installation, however I've gotten a lot of questions in the past about library installation. I figure it's probably best to take care of it in this tutorial. Also, there's an additional component which is optional if you're using the Freakduino, but you're really going to want if you're using one of the other boards I'll be releasing soon or rolling your own board. This is a boards.txt file which is a board description file. Inside the board description, it's possible to set #defines that allow the chibiArduino stack to identify the type of board being used and adapt itself accordingly. This allows the chibiArduino stack to be more flexible in accomodating different board configurations without having to involve the user in too much other than the board selection menu.

So let's get this tutorial underway...

Assembling the Freakduino v2.1a is almost completely the same as assembling the original Freakduino v1.1 version with the exception of one extra jumper. In this tutorial, we'll be walking through the assembly of the Freakduino v2.1a partial kit version. Familiarity with soldering is assumed along with a soldering iron, solder, and flush wire cutters. A nail clipper could be substituted for the flush cutters as well.

So, let's get started...

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?"