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.

I finally arrived in Delhi, India and the first thing I noticed was that immigration was opulent. I was a bit nervous because I was there on a tourist visa but had a huge amount of wireless electronics in my suitcase. If customs checked me, it’s likely they would have confiscated most of the electronics and rendered the workshop useless. Luckily, they didn’t and I was allowed to proceed to the exit. Customs always freaks me out, mostly because I usually have a lot of strange electronics gear in my suitcase.

It was now about 1am outside of the Indira Gandhi airport in New Delhi and it seems like India hits you like a ton of bricks. The sights, sounds, and smells are all in your face. Taxi drivers were all over the place trying to hustle me into their cabs. The first taxi driver quoted me 1200 rupees (~$24) to get to my airport hotel. After talking to multiple drivers, I got the price down to 400 rupees (~$8). After arriving at my hotel, the guy at the front desk said 200 rupees was on the high side to get to the hotel since it was right next to the airport. That kind of calibrated my expectations which meant that I was in a high ripoff zone. I later found out that it’s to be expected for foreigners in Delhi.

As I'm writing this, I'm waiting at Narita Airport in Tokyo for my flight to Delhi. How I ended up here is kind of interesting.

My New Year's resolution for 2013 was to travel less so that I could get more work done. As soon as the new year started, I was on a plane to Shenzhen to help Bunnie run factory tours of Shenzhen for MIT Media Lab. That was an amazing adventure but when I got back to Tokyo, I was far behind schedule on a lot of projects I was working on. On top of that, my funds were running low since I hadn't released a new product in a while. That's another weird story since, looking back at 2012, I actually had close to 20 PCB designs fabbed. None of them were for my webshop though. Apparently all of them were either collaborations (some of those are really interesting and will be saved for another blog post) or made for my own amusement. Ha ha ha.

Hi everyone.

Robin Scheibler, a Safecast member and also a Freakduino user, discovered and informed me about a dangerous bug in the AVR settings on the Freakduino. All Freakduinos purchased before 2013-03-28 are set to have a 4 kB bootloader (2048 words). In the Freakduino tutorial,  I mention to use the Arduino IDE board setting "Arduino Pro or Pro Mini (3.3V, 8 MHz) w/ATmega328". This board setting assumes a 2 kB bootloader (1024 words). Using this board setting, the Arduino IDE will protect against any sketch that uses more than 30,720 bytes. However since the bootloader on the Freakduino is set to 4 kB, the bootloader starts at 28,672 bytes. Any sketch that's between 28,672 bytes and 30,720 bytes will overwrite the bootloader. 

There are various workarounds for this:

2013-01-27 The End

Well, that was an epic tour of the Shenzhen industrial complex. I think I've talked a lot about the different processes we saw and my feelings about the factory tours. This trip was a lot more than that though. I got to know a great group of people as we navigated our way through the complex markets, vast industrial factories, language miscommunications, and various other obstacles that we hit on this trip. Everyone pulled together and helped each other out and for an industrial tour of this scale, I think it was a huge success.
Bunnie outdid himself in planning all the tours and this trip will undoubtedly leave a heavy mark in everyone's lives and careers. Even though I'm been in the engineering industry for a long time, I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to experience this much condensed manufacturing knowledge at one time. There's no way I could ever return to being the same designer I was one month ago. I'm pretty sure everyone else feels the same way.

2013-01-26 Generator Conference

My final day in Shenzhen and also the final event on the itinerary is the Generator Conference. This is a conference put on by Cyril Ebersweiler and Seeed Studios for the hardware startup scene. It was a little bit crazy for us because the previous night, we had a big BBQ party on the top of Rapscallions and invited a bunch of people including AQS, HAXLR8R, Dangerous Prototypes, PCH, and others. It turned into a huge bender and most of the group had some degree of hangover today. Bunnie had the worst of it and I think it was the final few rounds of vodka or whisky last night that did him in. Bunnie is also one of the speakers at the Generator conference which is going to be interesting.  
The Generator conference was right next to Seeed Studio which was located far away from us. We took two taxis out there but ended up getting lost along the way. We finally were able to meet up at a subway station near the place and walked to the conference from there. At the entrance to the venue, Cyril greeted us with his custom "Hardware is a Bitch" shirt and wearing NekoMimi neural cat ears. I can see why traditionally VC-averse people like Zach and Mitch Altman like him. I can see myself getting along with him too.

2013-01-24 PCH

Although the factory tours had ended, that didn't mean the events had ended. As usual, the schedule was still packed and today, we had the chance to visit the headquarters of a large contract manufacturer and logistics company called PCH. According to rumors I overheard, PCH was named by the founders, a group of Irishmen, as they were traveling down Pacific Coast Highway in California. They needed a name for their company and figured PCH would work.

PCH is the parent company of the logistics company we visited, CTS. They also handle manufacturing for many Apple products and accessories as well as various other brands. They run a technology accelerator to help smaller companies get to manufacturing and provide services and consulting to the companies in the accelerator. Darragh Hudson is one of the heads of the accelerator and he also owns a popular restaurant in the Coco Park district called Rapscallions. We've been going there regularly so we've met up with Darragh a few times already.