i heart my family

Posted in photography on January 26th, 2009 by fabienne

13.1 miles, 21.08 km: berliner halbmarathon

Posted in berlin, running on January 21st, 2009 by fabienne

so i signed up for the Berliner Halbmarathon, aka the Berlin half marathon, on April 5th. today I jumped into a 12 week training schedule (pdf of my training plan here, created with the nike+ site which i don’t especially enjoy using), a week and a half late. after last year’s 10k training (blogged here here and here), it’s nice to be back on some sort of prescribed workout plan. this morning i had to replace my garmin forerunner 50’s battery, (followed this) as well as my pedometer foot pod’s battery. today i tried out my new running gloves for the first time, they made such a difference against the cold. here is a shot of the ice from my run today:

but luckily it was just a three mile jaunt, not a 7 miler like tomorrow has planned. the half marathon will be the longest race i’ve ever run (and trained for), and i’m hoping to have fun in the process! also i am back on the less-of-a-crummy-diet bandwagon: less booze, less junk food vegetarianism, more protein and veggies and rice and all that good for you stuff. rumor is we are getting an elliptical trainer at the office this month, so i will be able to log the shorter runs at work.

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life has lurched into fast forward

Posted in berlin, conferences, web two oh on December 15th, 2008 by fabienne

this is just a quick post to round up a few recent activities, and a small explanation as to why my life seems to have been vorgespult (fast-forwarded). since the beginning of october i’ve joined forces with Kai v. Harbou at doctr.com. as CTO, i’m defining the tech for the company and i can’t begin to say how stoked i am (even after more than two sleep deprived months!). we are building secure and stable communication platforms for doctor to patient and doctor to doctor. i’ve been doing the web2.0 conference rounds lately, so if you’ve met me at one of those events and want to geek out further, please drop me a comment or an email. in reverse chronological order, i attended Le Web 08 in Paris, Open Everything Berlin (at which I spoke about open source hardware, slides here [pdf]), Medizin2Null (helped organize via doctr.com, videos here), LateCrunch, Girl Geek Dinner Berlin, Barcamp Berlin 3, and the Pre-Web 2.0 Expo Europe Drinkup.

and if you thought i was going to stop, haha good luck. this week kicks off a long series of houseguests international flatmates. for what comes between christmas and new year’s each year? oh yes. it’s chaos communication congress time. this will be my fifth congress in a row. i won’t be presenting or running any workshops, but i may be around lending a soldering iron or multimeter as a hardware hacking enabler. if this year’s ccc is anything like last year’s month-o’-hardware shenanigans, i’m up for a very hacktastic time:

i’m already planning some crazy projects for next summer’s har2009 .nl hacker camp as well as finding a location/date for my own event here in berlin: hardhack (site down at the moment, some documention here). so stay tuned and i’ll try keep my blog more closely synced with my real-time life.

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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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Remembrance: Markie Hoekstra

Posted in blawging on October 1st, 2008 by fabienne

photo by Mark Hoekstra, remixed by fbz, used under a creative commons by-nc-sa license

I don’t even know if I can begin to write this post, but I feel obliged to share a few thoughts on Markie leaving this earth. His untimely death was shocking and I will miss him immensely. Markie and I first met virtually through some photos of bunnies he had taken of What the Hack. We then met in person at the first EuroOSCON held in Amsterdam (photo above is of us from the second EuroOSCON in Brussels). Markie upheld all that is hardware hacking, tinkering, modding, open source, and of course maintained an incredible (working!) vintage hardware collection. The news that he had passed away came just as many of us were creating some crazy interactive projects for the Mediamatic RFID Hacker Camp in Amsterdam last week. He had participated in the camp the year before, so many of us there knew Markie. I was not only saddened by the loss but spurred on to build something fabulous that he would have been proud of. Markie, may your spirit live on with loads of vintage gear, open source platforms, and green alligator clips.

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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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Two weeks with the Nokia E90

Posted in gadgets on September 2nd, 2008 by fabienne

I was offered the chance to test out a Nokia E90 (aka the newest Nokia Communicator) for two weeks. As I’m a gadget hound, I jumped at the opportunity and here are my thoughts. Be forewarned that I used the E90 in place of my usual E70. Many of the criticisms found in this post have to do with comparisons between my E70 and the E90. Right off the bat I noticed that the keys on the E90 felt less “clicky” than the keys on my E70. I personally love responsive keys on a tiny keyboard, otherwise I can’t really touch type. The hinges on the E90 are a bit strange, and they grew on my slightly by the end of the two weeks. However, I would have loved to have a 45 degree angled mode between completely open and 90 degrees.

The screen was nice and bright, but often too bright at night. I tried adjusting the brightness and having the screen brightness auto-adjust with the light sensor, all to no avail. Also impeding proper usage of the E90 in the dark is the very dimly backlit keyboard in the fully open qwerty mode. My E70 has keys that are much more brightly backlit than the E90 when open. As far as I could find there was no way to increase the keyboard backlight’s brightness; it supported either on or off. Another usability annoyance for me were the two select buttons (they look like blue parentheses up to the right of the screen in the photo above). The select buttons are difficult to reach while thumb typing on the qwerty keyboard. On the E70 those buttons are on the screen in the middle and are very easy to access without any reach or stretch.

One happy feature of the E90 is the strong vibrator. It makes my E70 seem positively wimpy, and I have missed calls on my E70 in silent mode since switching back a few days ago. The four-way joysticks on both the outside and inside of the E90 work significantly better than on my E70. Coverage of 3G (UMTS) seems to be very similar to the antenna strength on my E70.

Now let me discuss current mobile apps for the Nokia E90. On my E70 I use the built in email app. The E90’s email app is very similar, though it is more pleasant to use on the interior widescreen than the outer screen. Web browsing still requires usage of the built in Nokia browser, as Opera doesn’t support the E90 as of the time of this review. Shozu supposedly supports the E90, but I tried installing it three times without success. The crash error message on the E90 that I had with many apps — “KERN EXEC 3” — is at least different than the usual “Out of Memory” error on my E70. I couldn’t upgrade to a newer firmware on the E90 because I didn’t have access to any Windows machines during my two week trial, so perhaps some of the bugs have been ironed out. The music player on the E90 is much better software-wise than the aging one on the E70. Annoyingly enough the E90 uses a 2.5mm connector instead of the standard 3.5mm mini jack connector on most commercial headphones. Yes, I use my cell as my mp3 player, when 2 and 4 GB cellphone memory cards are so cheap why shouldn’t I?

What I did enjoy was trying out Nokia Maps 2.0 with the E90’s built in GPS. It took a little while to lock to satellite, as GPS does in many gadgets, but once synced worked wonderfully. I used the search feature while walking to a new destination, subway stops were well marked, and switching between street/satellite/mixed/3d views was seamless. Saving screenshots of maps to the photo gallery was a snap. Map data is cached every time you search, so you use less and less of your data connection as time goes on. The only part of the whole experience that I found a bit lacking was the difficulty in saving a location. Location tagging/saving/sharing is in the works for the next version of Nokia Maps. In conclusion I have to say that I wish all the apps on the E90 were as compelling as Nokia Maps. The E90 is just not the best phone for me. It is too large and unwieldy compared to my past phones. I will continue on my quest for a replacement for my E70, which I will have had for two years in October. Next up I hope to test the E70’s replacement, the non-flip over candy-bar style Nokia E71.

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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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The generosity of knitters

Posted in knit, spin on September 1st, 2008 by fabienne

Now that I’m up and blogging again, I just wanted to extend a huge thank you to the knitters in my life. Firstly, pictured above is some of the gorgeous PigeonRoof Studios fiber gifted to me by the ever-awesome Ms. B. That and another blue roving made their way into my stash so a huge Thank You for those!

Secondly, I have been gifted a bike from Erin as she was leaving. What an amazing gesture! Thank you Erin!

And thirdly, I received the SpinCycle handspun pictured below in a mystery package, until I realized that it was a thank you from Chris (aka ItsMyKnitInABox). He came to visit a few months ago and while he was here I sold him some of my bright green baby camel and merino handspun, which he knit into this. Rocking. So thank you Chris for this totally awesome gift! (I’ve already knit up the handspun he gave me shown below, photos soon.)

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