Lifeloggers Documentary

Filed Under Gadgets & Hardware, Geek, Lifehacks, Self Tracking, Video on 2013-06-06, 00:23 | Leave a Comment

Lifeloggers
Memoto presents a short (23 minute) documentary on Lifeloggers. It’s a great conversation with a number of the characters in the Quantified Self, Lifelogging, Self-Tracking, “Record All The Things!” movement. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Dave Asprey wearing a Splunk shirt. (Disclaimer: I work for Splunk and am using Splunk Storm to track my own self.) There’s also some good blog posts over on Memoto’s site including an interview with Steve Mann.

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How much ice does it take to fill a bath tub?

Filed Under Art, Lifehacks, Personal, Pranks on 2013-06-02, 21:23 | Leave a Comment

We’re moving in a few weeks to a new house in San Francisco. Of course this means we had to throw a housecooling party at our current place before we could have a housewarming at the new place. I know, I know Party Laws are strict but you have to follow the rules. Over dinner with friends @aerialdomo put forth the idea of filling a bathtub with pudding came up. Unfortunately that idea was rejected immediately. After Jell-O and H2Goo were both shot down as well, we decided to compromise on ice. Fun and functional!

The day of the party, I realized I had no idea how much ice we would actually need. I jumped online of course, consulting the internet brain and couldn’t find a definitive answer.

Our tub is 24″ wide, 60″ long, and 16″ deep, or about 13 cubic feet. Back of the envelope calculations by multiple people resulted in estimates ranging from 40lbs to 500lbs as we couldn’t get a definitive answer on the volume of a bag of ice cubes. What were we to do? The answer was of course, just keep adding ice until it’s full. The result:

a bathtub full of ice

In the end, 185lbs of bagged ice cubes filled most of the tub. This was of course with some of the space taken up by bottles of beer, soda, and champagne. I estimate 200lbs would have given us a nice full tub. So there you go, to fill a basically standard tub, you probably need about 200lbs of ice. Or if you have a different sized tub, each pound of ice cubes will take up 0.065 cubic feet. I couldn’t find this info on the internet before, but now you can. And no, we didn’t steal anyone’s kidneys.

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When am I most likely to sneeze?

Filed Under Geek, Self Tracking on 2013-05-15, 12:08 | Leave a Comment

Sneezes Per Day

Based on two and a half months of logging using Biologger and Splunk Storm it turns out I sneeze the most between 1pm and 3pm and I’ve sneezed approximately 218 times since March 1st.

Sneezes per Hour of Day

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Detecting the Blue Angels with Splunk Storm

Filed Under Geek, Raspberry Pi, SF Bay Area on 2013-01-20, 14:00 | Leave a Comment

Blue Angels fly by the Golden Gate Bridge

For those that live in San Francisco (and the surrounding area), you know what Fleet Week sounds like. For those that don’t live around here, it sounds like incredibly loud low flying fighter jets buzzing the city for a couple hours each day for almost a week. Specifically it’s usually the Blue Angels practicing for their air show. Every year, Twitter and Facebook light up with either love or hate for these incredible technological marvels of human achievement built in the pursuit of an even greater military killing force. Regardless of your politics, they’re loud.

I’ve been working at Splunk on our cloud-based product, Splunk Storm, and have been finding new and different things to log and analyze with the service we’ve built. Shortly before Fleet Week 2012, Greg Albrecht came up with the idea of monitoring the roar of jet engines. He’s got a great write up of the whole side-project: Blue Angels Flyover Detection Using Splunk.

I used a Raspberry Pi with a Zoom H2 Recorder that can be used as a USB microphone. I left it setup by the window with it streaming data to our shared free project on Splunk Storm. We wondered at first whether we’d be able to reliably detect the jets since we had no way of testing before Fleet Week. Surprised that none of my friends owned fighter jets? Yeah, me too. But as you can see from the screenshots on Greg’s page of reports generated with Splunk, they weres pretty easy to detect.
Blue Angel Flyovers detected by Splunk Storm

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FireHero 3: Christmas Special

Filed Under Art, Fire, Fire Art, Geek, Raspberry Pi on 2013-01-19, 18:46 | 1 Comment

I know the holidays are almost over (we still have my birthday!) but I had to share this video of Chris Marion’s latest revision of Fire Hero 3. I’ve been chatting with Chris off an on over the last 2 years about fire art, and how Interpretive Arson/Ardent Heavy Industries has gone about building and running our stuff safely and legally at events.

He goes into great detail on how he built a lot of the system which includes six flame effects that react to guitar playing and two 100ft flame cannons for even more fire. All the plumbing and accumulators are controlled by an Arduino Mega and a RaspberryPi with a custom built server and communication protocol (written in python).

The Python host software is made up of a series of algorithms designed to perform intelligent chord-detection, as well as detect single notes and place them appropriately. The software memorizes all the chord progressions of a particular song as the guitarist plays in order to ensure consistent output for each chord.

The system is designed specifically for live music performances. I’m hoping it gets booked for a show nearby so I can check it out in person.

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Raspberry PI: Add Multiple WiFi Access Points

Filed Under Raspberry Pi on 2012-09-22, 09:41 | Leave a Comment

Raspberry Pi

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I had to configure wireless access from the commandline on a Linux machine. When I bought my Raspberry Pi, I also bought an Edimax EW-7811Un Wireless Adaptor. It’s super tiny, and provides wireless access to the Raspberry PI without adding anything bulky hanging off. It uses the very common Realtek RTL8188CUS chip, so it’s supported on Linux. Installing it was a piece of cake with this info and script. Huge thanks to MrEngman for this! (UPDATE: They say this wifi chip is supported with the new Raspberry Pi Debian image, so no need to run the script even!)

Once I had the wireless adapter up and running I realized I wanted it to be able to connect to any of the 3 wireless access points in our house. Turns out it’s really easy to setup your Raspberry Pi to connect to more than one wireless access points, but I had a bit of trouble finding a good how-to for it. Also, I’m sure I’ll forget these steps in due time. So here’s the painfully simple steps both for you and future me:

Edit your network interfaces with the command: sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces
Put the following in interfaces:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet dhcp
allow-hotplug wlan0
auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
pre-up wpa_supplicant -Dwext -i wlan0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf -B

Then generate your psk for each of your access points with: wpa_passphrase <ssid> <passphrase>
The output will show what your generated psk is. Copy this, we’ll put this in the next file.

Edit your config for wpa_supplicant: sudo nano /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
Put the following in wpa_supplicant.conf:

ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant
#ap_scan=2

network={
       ssid="your ssid #1"
       scan_ssid=1
       proto=WPA RSN
       key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
       pairwise=CCMP TKIP
       group=CCMP TKIP
       psk=the psk you generated above
}

network={
       ssid="your ssid #2"
       scan_ssid=1
       proto=WPA RSN
       key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
       pairwise=CCMP TKIP
       group=CCMP TKIP
       psk=another psk you generated
}

That should be all you need. Now when you plug-in and boot your Raspberry Pi it should connect to whatever access point is available that is supplied in the wpa_supplicant.conf. To check and see which one you’re using at any given time, just use the command iwconfig. Other handy linux commands for wireless stuff like checking signal strength.

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Burning Man 2012 Satellite Image

Filed Under Burning Man on 2012-09-07, 17:48 | 2 Comments

Check out GeoEye‘s annual high resolution picture of Burning Man 2012 from the sky. Click the image for the larger resolution (8.3MB) image.

Check out Burning Man Satellite Images from other years

from GeoEye

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Sunrise Time-lapse from the Burning Man Webcam in Gerlach, NV

Filed Under Burning Man, Video on 2012-08-30, 21:22 | Leave a Comment

Source images are from the Burning Man office webcam Taken on the morning of Sunday, August 25th. The gates opened later in the evening that day.

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Surviving the Dust At Burning Man

Filed Under Burning Man on 2012-08-19, 13:11 | 1 Comment

IMG_1139

Almost every year, a few weeks before Burning Man, word starts coming back from the playa that “it’s going to be dusty this year”. Most people that have been to the playa shrug this off with “it’s dusty every year”. This year however is a year to remind people that sometimes dusty doesn’t just mean annoying, it means potentially dangerous. As many know, 2011 had some of the best weather the event has ever seen. (No seriously, it was better last year.) Low winds, no dust storms, and almost perfect temperatures. This year may prove to be the exact opposite due to severe drought, high winds, and a lot more people to kick up dust.

Everyone’s gauge for what “dusty” is differs. My first year I showed up with a box of dust masks, full goggles, and even a two filter respirator. As the years have gone by I’ve made several trips back and forth to the playa for Burning Man and Juplaya and I now find myself usually running around with a pair of sunglasses and a bandana and calling that good. I still pack my respirator and googles just in case though as the playa can be an unpredictable and harsh mistress who doesn’t have a safe word.

Advice for Surviving Dust Storms at Burning Man

(You’ve already read the survival guide, right?)

1. Always have goggles and a dust mask on you

You can have them in your camelbak and never use them, but the one time you need them you’ll be glad you have them. Get a pair of goggles with replaceable lenses so you can have clear at night and tinted for the day.

2. Carry a GPS with your camp and other useful waypoints marked

Two years ago we found ourselves out in deep playa at night when a whiteout hit. We literally were walking blind except for my GPS. Without any sort of direction, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in a no-visibility situation and humans can’t walk straight. I’ve been using my Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx at the event for 4 years now. You can download GPS map files for Black Rock City here. Huge thanks to Will Keller for making these every year.

3. Stick together in a whiteout

It’s surprising how easy it is to lose friends in a whiteout, especially when it’s dark. We tend to use a “call” to keep everyone together. Pick a word or sound and whenever someone yells it, yell it back to them. It helps in keeping everyone aware of where everyone else is. Also it’s handy for quick cat herding when you want to leave crowded events on playa. And remember, megaphones can be used for more than just snark.

4. Get off your bike

If you’re riding your bike (or driving a car for that matter) and a whiteout hits, the first thing you should do is get off your bike. If you can’t see 2 feet in front of you, you don’t know what you’re about to hit. It could be rebar, it could be art, it could be a person, it could be a car. Chances are you’ll only be able to ride slightly faster than walking anyways, so be courteous to everyone else and walk it to shelter.

5. Tie down all the things

If you have any sort of structure, secure it. Carports are incredibly dangerous when they turn into tumbleweed. Even on the good weather years, a sudden gust of wind can send a carport flying. We like to use 3 ft pieces of rebar and multiple ratchet straps. Flying objects are probably the most dangerous thing during storms.

6. Get to shelter (carports, cars, RVs, etc)

Most of the dust storms we’ve experienced have been waited out in a well-secured carport with all the walls down. It stops some of the dust, provides some protection from flying objects, and that’s usually where the beer is. In really bad conditions, you want something a little stronger in between you and the dust and slightly larger flying things. Cars and RVs are better than carports for this. But for no reason should you try driving in a whiteout.

7. Embrace the experience

Once you’re sure that you’re in a safe place and your friends/neighbors/etc are too, embrace the experience. Anger, irritation, frustration, yelling, worrying, and being scared won’t make the dust go away any sooner. Weathering a dust storm on the playa is an experience you won’t get anywhere else.

Additional info

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2013 SXSWi Hotels Sold Out

Filed Under Events, SXSW on 2012-08-05, 12:04 | 2 Comments

When SXSW 2012 registration opened a few days ago (July 30th), I was asked, “Does SXSW ever sell out?”. My answer was, “No, but the hotels do”.

The first year I attended SXSWi I decided to go at the last minute. The biggest challenge was finding a hotel room even remotely close to the Convention Center. I ended up at the La Quinta Inn Oltorf (1603 East Oltorf Street) which was about 2.5 miles from the convention center. While I had an incredible amount of fun, my week involved a lot of late night cab rides and I missed any sort of morning panels. After that I vowed never to stay that far away again. It’s like camping in the outer streets of Black Rock City when all the action is on the Esplanade

I heard rumors a few days ago that hotels near the Austin Convention Center were already sold out for the Interactive portion of SXSW. Today I checked on SXSW’s Hotel Availability page and sure enough everything close to the ACC is sold out for the Interactive portion of SXSW. If you’re going for just music, most hotels are still available, but for SXSWi the closest hotel available through the SXSW Housing Desk is “La Quinta – South”, 3.9 miles from the Convention Center. I imagine it won’t be long before all those rooms are gone too.

The highly coveted hotels are anything within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center. The Hilton is probably the most sought after place to crash with it’s proximity and tendency for late night lobby parties like the Revolving Door Party and the Backstroke Competition. Other popular hotels are the Courtyard Mariott/Residence Inn, the Driskell, and the W Hotel. Ever year I’ve found myself visiting friends or hitting the bar at these hotels.

If you’re like me, your first thought is probably, “Why not just book a room for 2014 right now?” The problem is SXSW blocks off rooms in all the nearby hotels and then only provides them to SXSW badge holders. There are two ways to get a badge, you either buy one or you’re given one for presenting a panel. In order to book a hotel room in one of the blocks that SXSW has held, you are required to have a badge. But this causes another problem, registration (for badges and hotels) opens well before panels are accepted. For SXSW 2012 I didn’t know whether my panel was accepted until December. There are hotel rooms held for presenters, but there is the risk that your panel is not accepted, and then you’re stuck in December and everything is sold out. Not a risk I’m willing to take.

SXSW Interactive is getting bigger and bigger every year. In 2010 (the first year Interactive was bigger than Music) there were 12-13,000 attendees. The next year, 2011, an estimated 20,000 people invaded Austin for the Interactive festival. Despite the rain this year, that number jumped up to 25,000 people. If this trend continues, we may see over 30,000 people this year and more people sharing beds out of necessity rather than a result of drunken hook-ups after the company party.

Image composite sources: anneh632 and Taber Andrew Bain

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