Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hackerspace Autonomous Model Sailboat Racing

TL;DR Do you want to race autonomous model sailboats against other hackerspaces?

As you may have heard, think|haus has had a bumpy road lately. Membership has dropped, the space is underused and in need of general cleanup/fixup, etc. We were on the verge of closing, but have decided to give one last shot at revitalizing the space. One of the things people have suggested/requested was to have some group projects to help rebuild a sense of community. To that end, I'd like to seek feedback/expressions of interest from the various hackerspaces in Ontario for the following idea:


An autonomous model sailboat race. In September, think|haus would sponsor a race on Hamilton Harbour. Each hackerspace would enter a boat. If your space is extremely enthusiastic, maybe enter more than one. The rules would be simple: boats no more than 2m in length, must be powered by the wind only. 3 buoys would be placed in the Harbour setting out a triangular course. Teams would be provided the GPS co-ordinates of the 3 buoys. Boats must make it around the course without any remote control - telemetry & video links would be permitted, but no control links. Attacking other boats would not be permitted (though that may be an idea for another side competition - robot wars, boat edition).

think|haus would provide a chase boat to go out & retrieve any model sailboat that got into trouble. We'd also host a BBQ party afterwards.


Well, I like sailing, and it's my idea, so there's that. But also, the project has roles for the electronics types, the software types, and the mechanical types who would have to all work together on a common fun project. It would likely involve laser cutting, 3D printing, woodworking, sewing, microcontroller programming, and maybe vacuum forming, fiberglass work, etc. so there would be lots of opportunity to get everyone involved regardless of skill level. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want - stick a dowel with sail made from a plastic bag  in a big hunk of foam, or meticulously model a rigid wing carbon fiber hydrofoiling catamaran - it depends on what your team wants to do.

The main reason why, though, is to have fun working on a project together over the summer, learn new things, and have a good day outdoors followed by food & beverage. Maybe this could be SoonCon 2016?

So: interested? Ideas? Suggestions? Please let me know what you think.

Dave Harvey

PS. I've tried to hit most of the southern Ontario hackerspaces that I know of & have contact info for, but if there's anyone else or another list you can think of, please feel free to forward this info.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Federal Government Betrays Tainted Blood Victims

This is appalling.
In 1999, the Federal government provided compensation to people who were infected with hepatitis C through the blood system, but, despite vigorous opposition, initially restricted it to those infected between 1986 and 1990. After years of litigation & lobbying, during which time many people suffered & died, in 2007 compensation was finally extended to those infected before 1986 and after 1990 as well. Separate funds were set up for the two groups.
At the time the funds were set up, we were required to estimate the number of people in each group, and how sick they were, in order to determine the amount of money required for each of the funds. Those estimates turned out to be not quite accurate, and as a result the fund established for the 86-90 group has a surplus of about $240 million, and the fund for the pre-86/post-90 group ran out of money a few years ago, and would need about $60 million to pay out valid claims that could not be paid after the fund ran out.
On Monday, the Federal government is going to court to ask that the $240 million surplus in the 86-90 fund be paid back to the government. They refuse, however, to use any of that money to top up the empty pre-86/post-90 fund. People deserving compensation will go without, and the Federal government will pocket $240 million. Shameful, greedy & wrong

For more info, see the Globe and Mail story here.