the orchidarium

Posted in hardware hacking, open source, projects on October 23rd, 2013 by fabienne

tonight at the IoT meetup in berlin, i presented the orchidarium, a co-project built over the last couple of years by skytee and i. the orchidarium is a Wardian case for the modern nerd home.

here are the slides for the talk: orchidarium slides [pdf]

it’s been purring away at home for about 1.5 years now, keeping the orchids alive when we travel or get super busy. here are the quick facts:


– beagle bone with debian, first smart device with IPv6 in our home

– usb controllable power strip Energenie EG-PMS (unfortunately i’ve only found these for 220v so far)

– code here:

– light, fan, and ultrasonic mister control happens in a crontab

webapp for local control when on the LAN with the orchidarium, includes override functions and daily sensors in a graph

– pictured below: the custom water resistant sensor box for the orchidarium includes light, humidity and temperature:

– pictured below: the beagle bone running debian with IPv6 in a custom laser cut enclosure:

– pictured below: the orchidarium’s usb programmable powerstrip, an Energenie EG-PMS:

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algorithmically morphing scarf

Posted in knit, knitting machine, projects on September 18th, 2011 by fabienne

Fresh off the knitting machine is this algorithmically morphing scarf with a pattern that changes by one pixel in each repeat. The software was made by Laura Kogler and used by me with the hacked Brother KH930 I currently have. Laura Kogler’s pattern generator script is meant for mosaic knitting but I knit it as a standard two color fair isle pattern on my KH930. Knitting mosaic or slip-stitch on the KH930 is very operator intensive. It’s much faster to knit fair isle on the machine. It is a two-sided scarf with one side black on pink and the other side inverted with pink on black. I hand-seamed the whole thing together (which took days) and kitchenered the ends. It is knit in Hamburger Wollfabrik 3-ply Merino in a dark pink and black. It’s incredibly warm and soft, beyond the general nomminess of the algorithmically generated morphing pattern. The scarf has it’s own ravelry page.

The output I used from Laura Kogler’s script is pictured here below in teal and dark teal:

The output pictured above is 7 repeats wide, but I knit it 3 repeats wide for each side of the scarf. Each repeat is 26 stitches (pixels) wide, and the total length of the file sent to the knitting machine is 361 stitches (rows, pixels) long. I flipped the pattern upside down for the second half of the length with the KH930’s built-in pattern flipping functions.

I’m working on some general open source scripts for generative patterns for knitting machines, and so far I have thrown together some Processing code for creating random blocks in definable sizes: Eventually I hope to have some general open source algorithmic tools for the knitting machine to allow you to create much longer pattern morphs where the pixel mutations are more prominent. I also am writing in some auto-fill tools to add in patterns to blank areas in picture knitting so they turn out better with two-color knitting on knitting machines. The other killer feature will be to have options to limit the amount of repeats of one color in one row, to keep floats short on the reverse side of the knitting. Happy knitting to all you warmth-creating people out there!

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skull logo arrrgyle ipad sleeve

Posted in hardware hacking, knit, knitting machine, open source, projects on August 18th, 2011 by fabienne

In February of 2007 I worked out an argyle pattern based on my blue skull logo (see graph paper drawing below). In June of 2008 I knit the two color pattern up by hand (see shot in front of graffiti above). This week, August of 2011, I knit my skull argyle on a hacked knitting machine (Brother KH-930, documented here, code on github here). Sometimes it takes years to complete a project, especially if a project requires a new machine with which to make it.

The finished ipad sleeve (see images below) is knit from cotton on the hacked KH-930 (with computer control) and finished with a sewing machine. It isn’t all that complex, and is drawn pixel-wise on the Gimp and exported to the knitting machine with some code to emulate a TDD Tandy floppy disk drive, a bit of hardware, and some code to parse the resulting bitmap into a format which the knitting machine will recognize. This happened during cccamp11 where I had brought the knitting machine to demo in the HXX hardware tent. In the process I have learned all about the mechanics of knitting machines, their capabilities, how to get them to be computer controlled and the yarns that knitting machines like. In the end, I really still hate hand knitting two color stranded patterns, but I love the way the finished products look. The machine gets to offload that burden and still output beautiful pieces.

Update (September 18th, 2011): I redid the sleeve in a cotton that doesn’t fuzz so much, made the pattern repeat properly, and made the skulls right side up on both sides. The ravelry page for the first version is here, and the second version is here. The second version is pictured below:

and a before and after shot with the old on the left, new on the right:

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makerbot 'lectric cupcake cnc 3d printer

Posted in gadgets, hardware hacking, open source, projects on November 13th, 2009 by fabienne

just a quick update to let you know i was sponsored a 3d printer by wim of and i built it and got it working. i presented some slides (odp format, pdf here) about open source hardware and how the makerbot fits into all that at openchaos at the C4 in cologne a few weeks ago. a photo build log of me putting mine together (some assembly required) is here.

i will be bringing ‘lectric to dorkbot aachen next week on wednesday, so stop by if you want to print something out or if you want to see a 3d plastic extrusion printer built from scratch up and running. you can design your own stuff to print and upload it to the thingiverse ahead of time, or just contact me with your digital file and some contact info by email fabienne attt fabienne do0tt us.

a 3 second short video clip showing ‘lectric, my makerbot, printing its very first print (a lego brick) is here below:

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boxee on ubuntu jaunty 64 bit notes

Posted in how-to, open source, projects on October 21st, 2009 by fabienne

i have a media server that i have been working on (slowly) with 2.2 terrabytes of space, an ubuntu machine, amd 64 bit, with mythtv running (german dvb-t or cable tv recording capabilities). all this is well and good but i wanted a better interface to navigate my growing movie and tv show collection. enter xbmc, the interface optimized for couch use (aka with a remote) for navigation of a home theater pc. i have had some woes setting up xbmc, and about a year ago someone recommended trying boxee as it is xmbc + online social network, so you can see what your friends are watching and loving. it turns out boxee still doesn’t have package binaries for 64 bit linux machines, so there are a few hacks to get it working. here is what i did yesterday (after upgrading my ubuntu box to 9.04 jaunty most of the day). i tried a lot of different ways of getting boxee to work, here is what finally worked for me, a bash script for grabbing the newest package (hard to find url on boxee’s site, this script helps with that) and it installs getlibs, a way to getlibs for 64 bit machines with 32 bit packages.

and then to get the network recognized by boxee, add this:

sudo apt-get install lib32nss-mdns

next on my list is getting lirc (the infrared remote control stuff) working so my remote works better with mythtv (some buttons working) and to work at all with boxee (not recognized at all). it’s fun to pick up working on all of this after putting it aside for over a year!

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events including hardhack 2009

Posted in conferences, hardware hacking, projects on February 25th, 2009 by fabienne

fbz hacking

lots of hardware related events are coming up. first of all i will be speaking informally at the baustel-montag this coming monday about hardhack. next up i will be speaking during re:publica about open hardware (namely licensing and historical implications of open circuit information). i will most likely attend sigint, (the ccc event not in december and not in berlin). after that comes my event, hardhack, which will be only hands-on hardware stuff, no blah blah at all. then ph-neutral which this year will include some hardhack components. and the newest addition to my roster, i will be organizing HARdware, a pre-HAR2009 event to build some really awesome interactive hardware things for attendees of HAR to play with during camp. my project will be a group of networked, interactive, and hackable couches in the slacker dome. other projects may include a huge outdoor capacitive dance interface, cotton candy representations of network traffic, and walls of networked color changing pixels. contact me (fabienne @ this website) if you want to get involved!

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massage couch

Posted in conferences, hardware hacking, projects on December 12th, 2008 by fabienne

i am way way way behind on blogging, but i just wanted to start to pull myself out of this hole of online silence by starting with the mobile massage couch i helped build in amsterdam during the rfid hacker camp put on by mediamatic during the picnic conference. i haven’t finished documenting the build process, but at least i’ve started. i have more photos not on the couch’s page here. the top level trac page for code is here and the source code for the various components (microcontroller code for massage units and led display units and python code for the eeepc to talk to the network and control the whole couch) is here. the couch was conceived of and built in five feverishly hacktastic days with a team of three: Edwin Dertien, Ralph Meijer, and myself. the massage couch had rfid readers built into the armrests and gave you a longer massage if you weren’t yet friended in the picnic conference’s social network. it was all wireless and powered by a 12v lead-acid battery, thus the mobility factor. we hacked the living daylights out of every single hardware component in the couch, and started to document what we did, the most extensive being the add-on circuits to control the once-static massage controllers. we upgraded them to pulse width modulation controls and wrote our own massage programs. check out the massage couch’s project page for more info.

by the way, if you were wondering what happens when the hardware team finishes and the poor lone coder is left to do some late night coding on the last night:

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Bed project documentation part 3: Upholstery

Posted in projects on September 4th, 2008 by fabienne

This post is the third and final piece documenting the Bed Project, wherein I designed and built my own bed.

The last step to completing my bed was upholstering the entire particle board box. I purchased enough sheets of one-centimeter-thick foam from a local foam store. The foam store employees agreed that foam thicker than 1 cm is difficult to upholster using just a simple staple gun. Using a regular staple gun from the hardware store, I covered the four box sides of the bed. I tried to not staple anywhere that would be visible or touchable on the top or side of the bed. Instead, I stapled on the inside edge of the boxes where the mattress would hide the staples and under the lip of each empty-bottomed box side. The bed in it’s partly upholstered state is shown here below.

Next I covered the foam with grey tweed upholstery fabric which I bought at a fabric store specializing in furniture fabrics. I simply used the staple gun in the same manner as described above so as to hide the staples. The material does fray a bit on some edges. I folded the fabric once and tucked the fraying edges under before stapling. Where I had a seam in the fabric, I sewed using a whip stitch by hand after stapling. Pressing the seam after stitching makes the seams almost invisible. For each corner I mitered the fabric and cut away the excess bulk before stapling down. Here is a final view of the bed after finishing the upholstery with just the mattress:

Behind the bed you can see a bright purple tufted satin headboard which I also built myself. I first detached a silver frame from the mirror with which it was purchased. I kept the backing sheet of particle board from behind the mirror. I cut a five centimeter thick slab of foam to the size of the frame with regular scissors. I then measured out a diagonal grid of my tufting pattern and poked holes completely through the foam. To tuft, I pulled the purple satin through to the back of the foam through each tuft’s hole and anchored the fabric with a rectangle of cardboard, shown here:

I worked my way from one end of the foam to the other to keep the fabric as taut as possible on the finished tufted side:

I squished the finished fabric tufted foam up through the frame and pulled the fabric tight on each edge:

Then I flipped the whole thing upside down and put the saved piece of particle board backing on the back. I stapled the backing board back into the frame and trimmed the purple satin to a few centimeters:

Folding the fabric over on itself and gluing it to the backing board with a hot glue gun was the final step.

The purple satin headboard is hung on the wall behind the bed and makes for a comfortable place to lean and read a book in bed. That wraps up my Bed Project documentation on how to design and build your own bed with a minimum of tools. I hope with this series you might be inspired to design and build your own modern designer bed.

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Bed Project documentation part 2: Practical woodworking

Posted in projects on September 3rd, 2008 by fabienne

This is part two in a series of posts documenting how I designed and built my own bed.

Once I finished my design, I set off to the hardware store to buy some particle board and some two-by-fours to construct the frame of my bed. I figured that a frame of two-by-four “beams” slotted into each other would support a sort of box construction built in particle board. A few sketches of the beam frame are shown here below:

The frame of beams extends longer on one side for the bench on the right side of the bed. There is a center two-by-four that adds support to the center of the mattress. All of the notch cuts for the slotting parts of the two-by-fours were made with a standard jigsaw. The final frame is shown here below (the far side of the frame is partially obscured by the particle board box on the bench part of the bed):

The particle board boxes for each side were constructed separately following the measurements in my digital file [SketchUp format]. They were cut with the jigsaw and drilled together using large wood screws and a power drill. The bottom of each box was left open to reduce the overall weight. The “boxes” were then slotted onto the two-by-four frame to add strength to the construction. A before slotting / after slotting series of photos are shown here below:

On the outsides, the frame slots completely over the two-by-four frame, shown here in this image of one of the outside corners:

I tested the fit of each box side as I went. Some adjustments were necessary even with precise measurement. Here is the completed frame with all four particle board boxes assembled (without the metal legs) in my workroom:

I then reassembled first the two-by-four frame in my bedroom and attached the metal Ikea bed legs at this point:

Next I secured the boxes on top of the frame with more screws and added slats to support the mattress:

The next post on the Bed Project will wrap up the series with notes on upholstery and final photos of the finished bed.

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Bed Project documentation part 1: Inspiration

Posted in projects on September 2nd, 2008 by fabienne

In the beginning, I saw some ad pages in some magazines. I thought “gee I really hate bumping into a hard bed, I want something completely padded, but modern looking”. I also knew that if my design were sound, I could build it myself DIY style, and still have it look professional. So these two images were my jumping off point for what I would eventually build. (Click through the images for the designers’ sites.)

I dubbed it the Bed Project, and off I went. I drew some mock-ups in SketchUp of my own version (screenshots shown below). You can grab my final design in the SketchUp file format here. I decided that the mattress should be more flush with the bed frame than in the beds I had clipped as inspiration. My idea was to also include enough clearance underneath the bed to allow for a robotic vacuum cleaner. To keep metal milling out of my DIY craziness, I sourced some 20cm metal bed legs from Ikea (the tallest version of these). In my final design, I kept the large bench on the side. The bench has turned out to be a great place for a laptop, as well as a spot for magazines and breakfast trays. In the next installment of the Bed Project documentation: practical woodworking.

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