Category Archives: geek

More ideas for tech and the home

There’s an upcoming wearable tech / Internet of Things hackathon (Toronto: May 8-10, 2015; other dates elsewhere). Since hackathons are great ways to collect interesting ideas and people, I thought about whether I wanted to join and what I might do. It’s easier to generate ideas when you have a particular focus, so I reflected some more on what I’d started thinking about tech and the home.

Hackathons are handy ways to get access to hardware (sometimes even before they’re released to the general public) and to mentors who can help get past odd hurdles. I looked up the hardware that will be featured at the event:

  • Thalmic Myo: gestures
  • Intel Edison: low-power, small-form-factor computing
  • Nod Ring: gestures
  • Estimote Beacon: location tracking, sensors
  • Xbox Kinect: gestures, computer vision
  • Muse: biofeedback, brain waves
  • Arduino: electronics, shields, interfacing with the real world, small-form-factor computing
  • Xadow: various connected components for wearables

Then I made a brainstorming grid and started matching up various interests and technologies. I filled in some ideas and researched past hackathon winners or existing companies for others. Here are those thoughts:

2015-04-20i Tech and the home -- index card #tech-and-home

2015-04-20i Tech and the home – index card #tech-and-home

2015-04-20j Wearables, IoT, and the home -- index card #tech-and-home

2015-04-20j Wearables, IoT, and the home – index card #tech-and-home

I probably won’t go because I have some other personal projects to work on around that time. There are lots of opportunities to do things like this in Toronto, so maybe next time. =) In the meantime, I have a quick braindump of ideas that might be interesting to play with. I might start with gardening, since that’s the season for that. (Whee!) A 3D-printed seed dibbler doesn’t count as wearable tech or Internet of Things, but it would be handy right around this time, so I can use that to learn more about printing. I’ll also look into making those fabric aeration pots out of felt, laser-cutting markers, and possibly having some sensors for microclimate monitoring. Possibilities…

Considering tech and the home

I came across an interesting exercise in Barbara Sher’s I Could Do Anythng If I Only Knew What It Was: to pick a scenario and try fully committing to it, even just for a little while.

Let’s say that this current lifestyle is the thing that I’m going to fully explore. I’ve started thinking of it as blending technology and non-technology interests, building a little on the idea of exploring that future where tech is more integrated into the home. I’m not the only one exploring it (yay!), but there aren’t that many people with the opportunities to do so yet, so maybe I can bring some useful ideas and insights to it.

So: laser cutting and sewing, Emacs and cooking, days with the abundance of time that science fiction writers used to predict we’d enjoy.

What would this life look like, carried to its fullest extent? What steps can I take to move towards that? How would this life evolve as technology advances and my skills improve?

One direction people go with lives like this is that of homesteading: building up more independence by growing and making more things. I like being close to the library, subway, and supermarket, so maybe that lifestyle isn’t quite for me yet.

Another direction is to stay where you are, but improve the way you do things.

  • I want to make more customized things, like the way I like wearing the tops I’ve sewn. Who knows, I might even get good enough to sew things for other people. As I get better at imagining and constructing things, I might also be able to apply those skills to laser-cutting, 3D printing, and other manufacturing technologies.
  • I want to get better at repurposing things, getting more value out of stuff before we recycle or trash them.
  • I want to gradually swap out more of our consumables with reusables. For example, I can make produce bags out of mesh. Then we won’t need to use plastic bags for fruits and vegetables.
  • I want to cook a wider variety of recipes, and I want to prepare each recipe better. I also want to get better at transforming leftovers.

I feel a little odd about a life that seems so focused on such a small area (of interests, of geography, etc.). I feel some internal resistance around that. But hey, Emacs is a pretty niche thing too. Besides, it might be interesting to take notes and see where this goes.

Related sketches:

2015-03-27b Resistance to different dreams -- index card #resistance 2015-04-16a Imagining a week of taking it easy -- index card #relaxing #life 2015-04-16b What does my Resistance sound like -- index card #resistance 2015-04-16d What if I extrapolated this rest to awesomenss -- index card #life 2015-04-16e How can I cross-pollinate interests

Emacs Hangout 2015-04-15 show notes

We chatted about packages, packaging, databases, and the upcoming Emacs conference.

Event page: https://plus.google.com/events/c3igul0rj6cfc1qbcar91lrcj0s

What’s this Emacs Hangout thing about? This is an informal way for Emacs geeks to get together and swap tips/notes/questions. You can find the previous Hangouts or sign up for the mailing list at http://sachachua.com/blog/tag/emacs-hangout/ .

Upcoming Emacs Hangouts:

Emacs Lisp Development Tips with John Wiegley
April 28, 2015 Tue 4:00 PM Toronto time (8 PM GMT)

Emacs Hangout
April 30, 2015, at 2 PM Toronto time (6 PM GMT, 8 PM CET):

Want to find out about upcoming hangouts? You can sign up for notifications at http://eepurl.com/bbi-Ir or follow the Emacs conferences and hangouts page.

Timestamps are approximate since I was a little distracted. =)

  • 0:25:14 8:26 PM whoops, forgot to keep track of stuff. Before this: conversation about Unity/C#/etc. in Emacs; Spacemacs
  • 0:26:33 Howard demonstrates literate database queries with a remote SQL server. SSH tunnel + –protocol=tcp
  • 0:28:55 Naming the results of queries and then using them in a different calculation
  • 0:30:39 Hmm, might be a good technique for exploring old databases
  • 0:31:13 sx.el – StackExchange client
  • 0:34:16 howdoi-emacs
  • 0:34:57 sx setup, sx-tab-all-questions
  • 0:35:59 hydra sample use cases: opening files and directories, changing the quotation of strings, mode switching
  • 0:37:30 clone indirect buffers
  • 0:39:35 Cask
  • 0:43:27 use-package
  • 0:44:57 paradox
  • 0:49:11 packages
  • 0:56:02 Emacs conference stuff
  • 1:05:11 weird Emacs things =)
  • 1:07:43 Next up: literate config (Dylan, Sean)
  • 1:13:19 wrapped up

Text chat and links:

me 8:08 PM By the way, we can use this text chat as a backchannel. After the chat, I’ll copy it and share it with the show notes so that other people can grab links.
Howard Abrams 8:14 PM Here is my investigation of my save hooks in case you can kick off some sort of script: http://howardism.org/Technical/Emacs/save-hooks.html
me 8:15 PM External to Emacs, but possibly interesting: https://github.com/infospace/guard-java
Dylan Thiedeke 8:16 PM You said there was a ruby-guard? I will have to look into that for authoring and editing cookbooks and recipes for use with Chef
me 8:17 PM https://github.com/guard/guard ?
Dylan Thiedeke 8:18 PM Awesome! Will definitely be looking at that thanks Sacha
Swaroop C H 8:20 PM csharp layer – https://github.com/syl20bnr/spacemacs/blob/064a598bff56f7cef1ac2ddf1c43684357dde56a/contrib/lang/csharp/README.md ?
M. Ian Graham 8:21 PM Nice link Swaroop, I’ll see if I can pull it in
me 8:25 PM http://emacswiki.org/emacs/GnuGlobal
Swaroop C H 8:26 PM https://github.com/syl20bnr/spacemacs/pull/1169
Sod Oscarfono 8:32 PM +1 for being a bassist!
M. Ian Graham 8:32 PM https://github.com/vermiculus/sx.el
Howard Abrams 8:32 PM Here is the blog post about the literate database work: http://howardism.org/Technical/Emacs/literate-database.html
me 8:34 PM https://github.com/arthurnn/howdoi-emacs
Zachary Kanfer 8:48 PM There’s an Emacs song: https://www.gnu.org/fun/jokes/welcome-to-gnu-emacs.html and http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/LyricMode
Samer Masterson 8:53 PM gimmie a sec, getting headphones
me 8:56 PM Question from a viewer: Why would someone use both Cask and use-package at the same time https://raw.githubusercontent.com/rejeep/emacs/master/init.el ?
Sod Oscarfono 8:57 PM i’m an ex-event manager… i’d be keen on helping get one happening in oceania
me 8:57 PM Oooooh
Sod Oscarfono 8:57 PM nz or aus maybe
Samer Masterson 8:57 PM https://goo.gl/forms/tv0sDuApd8
Dylan Thiedeke 8:57 PM Sod I’m in AU. Not qualified enough to present but would help out if I could
Sod Oscarfono 8:59 PM thanks Dylan. perfect/ any ideas on a rough idea of numbers of emacs users globally? by region? hard to quantify i realise but are we talking hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands do you think? keen as Samer… i’m nowhere near as proficient with emacs, or programming as most here but i have many other skills.. event management, audio engineer, graphic design and close connection with large format commercial printer
Dylan Thiedeke 9:03 PM Sod in Australia I couldn’t even imagine a number. Maybe poll the #emacs IRC channel on friend and the emacs group on G+
me 9:03 PM Sod: Woohoo! Awesomeness.
Dylan Thiedeke 9:04 PM Sod I’m not a programmer either but use emacs for documentations and starting to use it for project management with org-mode etc
Sod Oscarfono 9:04 PM community is the magic word when talking to me
Samer Masterson 9:04 PM emacsconf.github.io/emacsconf2015
Sod Oscarfono 9:05 PM feel free to add me Dylan we can fire some ideas back and forth. maybe a poll of interest in a local conf or meetup
me 9:06 PM Sod, Dylan: Neato!
Howard Abrams 9:07 PM I’m sorry, but I have to leave as well. Thanks for the fun and I will listen to the rest later.

Laser cutting update: Marvel version

I cut the Marvel-licensed fabric that I picked up from Affordable Textiles on Queen Street (near Spadina) on the laser cutter. It worked out beautifully. I reused the SVG I tweaked after last week’s experiments. As it turns out, even with a 45″ one-way design, 1.5 yards is enough for a top, enough bias strips to bind the neckline and armholes, and two pairs of liner squares. There will be small scraps that I can use for other projects, too.

2015-04-14 21.52.43

This will be my 12th top, and I have the fabric for a 13th if I wanted to. I’m currently wearing the top that I laser-cut out of 100% Italian cotton. 100% cotton seems much more comfortably breathable than the polyester-cotton blend in the broadcloth that I practised with. Maybe I’ll do a few more tops as I come across colours and patterns that I like, and I’ll also gradually branch out to other patterns as well.

A checklist of things to try, fabric-wise:

  • Cotton
    • Fabric ordered online – maybe this cute Dr. Seuss fabric or something else from Jo-Ann (or maybe this one), to remind me to have fun
    • Something from Etsy
    • Fabric using someone else’s design, maybe off Spoonflower
    • Fabric I design
  • Stretch knit
  • Silk or other slippery fabrics

Mwahahaha. =)

2015-04-14d Laser-cutting fabric is awesome -- index card #laser #hacklab

2015-04-14d Laser-cutting fabric is awesome – index card #laser #hacklab

Experimenting with spending more time at Hacklab

This week I experimented with making Hacklab my default location. I biked there on Monday and Tuesday because the weather was good, and I took the subway on Friday because I wasn’t sure about the forecast for rain.

On Monday, I laser-cut pieces for the simple tops that I’ve been sewing. I’ve been skipping the pleat, since it doesn’t make any difference to the fit of the garment and skipping it makes the top easier and faster to sew. The pattern fits the laser cutter if I cut it on a fold, and I can cut registration marks on a sheet of paper to make aligning that fold easier. I cut the pieces for one top out of the peach broadcloth that I’d salvaged from my box cushion prototype. (Waste not, want not!) I cut the pieces for another top from a black gingham check that I wanted to experiment with, since it’s supposed to be one of this season’s trendy patterns. I was delighted to find that the laser-cut pieces actually matched up – not just in terms of the notches (which I can take credit for), but even in terms of the pattern. (Probably more coincidence than skill.)

I didn’t pay attention to the direction of the gingham check because I assumed the stripes were the same visual weight. It turns out one direction is a bit heavier than the other, so now my shirt has horizontal stripes when it looks like most of the commercial gingham shirts I’ve seen had dominant stripes (if any) running vertically… Ah well! I cut bias strips and wrappers for another experiment out of my excess yardage, so I don’t think I have quite enough left to make a new shirt. I’ll finish and wear what I have. If I decide it’s worth doing another gingham thing, I might be able to get half a yard and do another one.

On Tuesday, I came early so that I could get some bread dough rising while I went for a massage. (Knead and be kneaded?) That worked out well, and we had some lovely crusty bread for the open house dinner. Eric and I also checked out this community garden in the neighbourhood. Our chances of getting a plot are probably pretty low (long waiting lists), but apparently they have a small herb area that could use more volunteers, so we might give that a try. Alternatively, Alex says it’s okay for us to set out planters in the back, and he even has an automated watering system. It would be great to grow lots of basil and other herbs for cooking.

Today I went to Hacklab to talk to a friend. Since I was in the area anyway, I also took the opportunity to pick up some bamboo fabric from Designer Fabrics so that I can look into making a pair of yoga pants.

I wanted to laser-cut the bias strips for the gingham check. I thought about using the 10″ square continuous method, but I settled for making long bias strips instead so that I could fit an extra square in there for another project I’m working on. While I was sorting that out, Alex came in with a MIDI keyboard, a laptop, and a projector. He proceeded to set it up to project the keyboard training program onto the keyboard itself, which was really nifty. We had fun playing around with different pieces.

Mmm. I like this. Going to Hacklab nudges me a little more towards making stuff and talking to people, I think. Let me see what next week is like. On the flipside, it means less time at home and less time preparing meals, but if I leave Hacklab earlier and I plan what to cook, I can probably still have that in place by the time everyone’s ready for dinner.

On another note, Designer Fabrics didn’t have any polyurethane laminate (PUL – waterproof, breathable, washable in hot water; often used for diapers, but good for general waterproofing and even making food-safe lunch bags and other containers). Fabricland has some, but it’s a bit pricy at $33/m. It seems people tend to order that online, so I might give online shopping a try.

2015-04-08 Emacs Lisp Development Tips with John Wiegley

You can find John Wiegley on Twitter (@jwiegley) or at http://newartisans.com/.

0:00:00 Paredit mode. Start with it from day 1! Matching pairs of parentheses, won’t let you delete one without the other. Inserts appropriate newlines, too
0:03:56 Emacs as a Lisp environment. (Also, Helm is what’s responsible for the display.) Evaluating a function makes it available in the global scope, which has all these functions and commands you can do. This makes it easy to iteratively develop your functions, because you can just execute things directly.
0:05:08 Without (interactive), you can’t call functions with M-x. You can use M-: or put the call in your scratch buffer.
0:06:00 command-log-mode
0:06:47 pp-eval-last-sexp. Check out http://github.com/jwiegley/dot-emacs for other config things
0:07:14 debugging. e to evaluate within the current context. Also, stepping, quit.
0:08:09 Edebug with C-u C-M-x. Interactive debugging. SPC moves you forward, one Lisp form at a time. It shows you results in the minibuffer. You can descend into Lisp forms or go into functions. ? shows keybindings. Check out the Emacs Lisp chapter on EDebug, highly recommendeg.
0:09:25 You can also use the (debug) form to go to the debugger.
0:10:26 eldoc: Seeing arguments in the minibuffer as you type, because no one remembers all the arguments anyway. eldoc-mode, or add (turn-on-eldoc-mode) to your config.
0:11:30 What functions should you call in the first place? What concepts? Emacs predates many standard terms, so that’s why things are a little confusing. Ex: “frames” and “windows” are not what you might think they are. OS window = frame. Area within Emacs = window. Opposite of HTML. Use the Emacs tutorial C-h t.
0:13:04 Read the Emacs Lisp intro, which you can get to with C-h i (which lists the manuals that are available). Read the Emacs Lisp manual too.
0:14:03 Other weird terms: point, mark, marker. (point) vs (point-marker).
0:15:35 C-h f (describe-function) shows the help for the function. Nearly all functions you’ll probably call are documented well. Lots of options. Check out C-h f for interactive, for example.
0:17:17 C-h v (describe-variable).
0:17:46 More in-depth documentation: C-h i, go to the Emacs Lisp manual, then use i to view the index.
0:18:22 info-lookmore shows you the Info documentation for the symbol under point. Works for other Lisps too (ex: Common Lisp)
0:19:46 Sanity-checking paired parentheses with M-x check-parens. Handy for adding to your after-save-hook in Emacs Lisp mode.
0:20:40 Paredit editing capabilities. Ex: C-k kills the current sexp. paredit-raise-sexp replaces the parent sexp with the following sexp. slurping and barfing. Barfing – spitting out an element from the list form. C-{ or C-} (with suggested keybindings). C-( and C-) are slurping, which pulls forms in. Works for strings, too.
0:22:38 Maximum barfage and slurpage. Useful for slurping everything in, for example. paredit-slurp-all-the-way-forward.
0:24:13 redshank (companion to paredit) for refactoring. Ex: redshank-condify-form converts an if to a cond for when you realize you’ve got more than two conditions.
0:25:05 M-1 M-( surround the next one thing with parens
0:25:25 redshank: wrap a let, change if to a when, etc.
0:25:52 C-h k (describe-key) shows what a keyboard shortcut or menu item will do.
0:27:26 Took a while to get used to paredit, but you eventually get into the zen of paredit.
0:27:54 Linter – M-x elint-current-buffer. Loads every module that your code depends on (so the first time is slow), and then shows you style notes.
0:28:50 C-q for manually inserting parentheses
0:29:10 Helm, which shows you all the other stuff that matches your query. Lets you select by regex, multiple patterns, etc. Much nicer and more interactive.
0:30:29 Profiler M-x elp-instrument-function, then call the function, then elp-results will show you the time it took to execute. Results aggregate, and are reset when you call elp-results.
0:32:30 Measuring memory consumption. Also, internal representation of lists. reverse vs. nreverse. Like nconc, nreverse, setcar, setcdr. This can greatly speed up your code, if you can avoid using the garbage collector. EmacsWiki – memory-use-counts, but not particularly helpful? Another package that extends the Emacs Lisp profiler? Avoid premature optimization.
0:38:55 elint and flycheck? flycheck’s designed for external processes, so that might be a challenge. Possibility: use async to spawn another Emacs? Doesn’t seem to be available yet.
0:40:40 ert
0:48:11 testcover, coveralls.io, undercover.el
0:48:13 Read Emacs Lisp manual, etc.
0:48:20 Creating a mode. You don’t have to make it from scartch – start by copying someone else, and then strip away everything you don’t want.
0:49:58 checkdoc – checks the style of your documentation strings.
0:51:30 defining a minor mode
0:56:08 when to define a major mode – structure of your buffer