Hackers Space: the Final Frontier

Hackers Space: the Final Frontier
Hackers Space: the Final Frontier 

By Marty Graham 
October 20, 2007

Imagine a device that looks like a lawnmower, rolls up to you and shows 
you your wifi password. It's Hackerbot, and 3ricj says people react 
kindly to the little bot, not like they do to the evil hacker 
stereotype. Or a CDMA device sent up in a balloon that works until the 
batteries fail.

This is what happens when hackers have a space - Hackerspace, in 
Seattle. Founded on April Fool's 2005, it's full of things that explode, 
burn, whirr and hum, and people who play with them.

"It takes money to do this, but you've got a bigger pool of people to 
raise money," 3ricj says. With an evolving group of members, people try 
art, hardware hacks and collective projects in the 3,000 square foot 

Members have lots of freedom inside, but they also think through the 
results of what they do.

"It's important you don't disrupt the local ecosystem because once the 
cops start showing up your project is in trouble," 3ricj says. "Sharing 
a case of beer and sitting in a corner isn't really a good use for the 

They've got dozens of projects underway, a pile of electronics finally 
sorted for easy use. They use wikis to track supplies, keep project 
lists and notes.

Hackerspace is a real example of hacker gatherings, infrastructure in 
the community that the Hacker Foundation is promoting.

"You have to organize," says Nick Farr, who set up 'hackers on a plane', 
hauling hackers from DefCon to Germany for a hacker camp. "All it takes 
is getting a group of people who are local and interested and start 
talking about it, get to a shared vision."

"It gets really hard to pursue projects in a house, it's important to 
have a space you can invite people into," he says.

NYC Resistor is creating a space in Manhattan, another group is working 
on an art gallery/hacker space in San Francisco, possibly the two most 
expensive cities in North America.

"Almost any potentially public space that you can build walls and lay 
network cable in can be a hacker space," Farr says. "Look at any public 
space in your community where you can start to create a hacker space."

Almost all the public hacker spaces created have failed because the 
people who started the project burned out from the drama of it all. And 
there's the risk of surprise expenses - holes punched or insurance 

"Noboby's going to do the community organizing for you," says Farr. 
"We're encouraging you to do this because it's a cool idea for people to 
have a place to collaborate."

Some of the things that come from hackerspaces are fascinating - Lara 
Sobel's RFID shielding pouches wallets, made from trash and essentially 
an open source project.

"I posted instructions for making them online so anyone can do it," 
Sobel says. "I learned how to fuse the trash bags and defeat RFID 
readers from available information and I'm sharing how to do it."

Besides fused trashbags, Lara uses aluminum can bits to provide 
shielding whether the pouch is open or closed. They Velcro shut and fit 
credit cards, licenses and passports.

Sobel started making them because she wanted to be able to turn her RFID 
technology on herself to people she trusts.

"I want a human interaction to make a trust decision," she says.

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