New Xylotex based CNC Machine

We have a CNC Milling machine!

New Xylotex based CNC Machine

Xylotex based CNC Machine

Thanks to Jesse, a brand new member (also brand new to Portland – he just moved here) who didn’t have room for it, we have a small CNC milling machine. We’re in the middle of converting over to run with EMC2, but hopefully it will be fully running with a control system by next week!

Microcontroller Crazy!


Loki unknowing entered a drawing at OSCON…  and won.  Thanks to Deno at Palamida (Open Source IP Assurance), the silo has been sent an Adafruit Industries Arduino Budget Pack as a the prize.

We now have quite the selection of microcontroller and development boards to play with, and are getting more all the time.  Some highlights include:

  • TI MSP430 Launchpad w/ MSP430 Capacitive Touch BoosterPack
  • Multiple Arduinos and clones
  • Basic STAMP w/ 9v battery holder
  • MAKE Controller Kit
  • Misc UbiCom development boards w/programmer
  • ISA Prototyping Card
  • PCI Prototyping Card
  • Atheros and Broadcom WiSoc boards
  • Pico E101 FPGA dev boards (ask to use)
  • and more!

Come on down on an Open House night if you want to play with one of these!

BrainSilo NEEDS your feedback


BrainSilo, Portland’s only 24/7 hackerspace (hell, it’s only
hackerspace), isn’t doing so well – and we’d like your input on why
you aren’t using it. (if you haven’t heard of us, check out

We’ve been open since January 1st, 2010 and incorporated as a
nonprofit entity for almost exactly a year now. Originally, we had
50+ people highly interested in the space, and at least 20 who
commited to support us – but the most paying members we’ve had at one
time was 12, and it hasn’t been near that in a while. With a couple
more people canceling their membership recently, and almost no one
showing up for the weekly open houses, I’d just like input from
people. While our expenses are only ~600/month, the vast majority of
that has been paid by myself and one other person for the past few
months – and that isn’t sustainable.

The following are a few questions I’d love an answer to, in no
particular order. The answers to these will hopefully help the board
decide what the next steps for BrainSilo are, if any.

The survey is here:

ThinkGeek is giving away their garbage – and we’ve asked for some


ThinkGeek as recently announced that they will be giving away some of their returns and damaged items to groups and hackerspaces that will do something interesting with them.  BrainsSilo has been signed up for the program, and we’ll see if it gets approved.

I probably don’t need to say how awesome this would be.  Since most of us live in Oregon, dumpster diving is actually legal, but both the police and most business totally frown on it – mostly because of bums who make a complete mess.  But I know I’ve done it in the past, and most of our members have at some point, or still do, and the simple amount of useful crap that gets thrown away is amazing.

99% of people, when something breaks, don’t want it anymore – but for us, those broken items are a gold mine of parts, and anything left after we strip em or hack em can be responsibly recycled.  It is a great program that ThinkGeek has starting, and it’s also a wonderful example that we could use to approach other companies with.  Portland has Intel, Tektronix, Storables, FLIR (oh, some of their broken toys would be awesome), and tons more – some of them may be convinced this is a good idea, if we can talk to the right people.

If your companies throws away stuff you think we could use, and you think might be able to find the right person to talk to at the company about redirecting some of it to us, let us know.  One thing to note is that the product is still being “destroyed”, and if you need to actually throw it away (for insurance/contractual reasons, or whatever else), thats fine…  just let us know what dumpster to dig through when!  We promise to clean up after ourselves.

Sprint AIRAVE/Samsung SCS-26UC Teardown instructions


We completely tore down the Samsung SCS-26UC2 last night, taking picture along the way.  We also got a serial cable working with it, which we’ll be posting info about later.

If you want to see the instructions, check them out at our new Google Code Repository for the device:

New toys for tonight’s general meeting


I’ve picked up a couple new toys that we will be exploring tonight: a C2D Digital Microscope and a Sprint Airave CDMA Femtocell (Samsung SCS-26UC).

The C2D Digital Microscope is essentially a USB camera attached to a toy microscope, but it claims up to 220x magnification.  No linux drivers are provided, but it might work with some modifications to the gspca driver.  We do have Windows XP drivers – so for tonight, we may just load it up in a VM and take a look at it.  The goal is to have it working in linux, primarily for use in capturing images of parts of circuits.

The Sprint Airave is a CDMA femtocell, much like the AT&T 3G Microcell…  but for CDMA instead of GSM.  It uses a MontaVista Linux 2.6 kernel, with u-boot 1.1.1, and (some) sources can be downloaded from Samsung’s website.  The console cable for it connects through an HDMI plug, so we”l probably at least be making on of those tonight.  The goal is to back up the existing firmware, and try to gain shell access.

Of course, you are always welcome to bring your own new/weird/interesting, and we can play with it too!

Membership Signup now active


The website is finally all setup for membership, though it hasn’t been tested that much, so if you have any problems, let us know immediately.

See the Membership page for the different options, and the Membership Dues page for options on paying your membership dues.

We support Paypal Subscriptions (your paypal account will automatically pay each month), which are much preferred for administrative reasons, but we also support Google Checkout in 1 and 3 month payment increments, as well as cash and checks.

Right now, by becoming a member you will have access to a special page on the website that will always be updated with the current door code. In the very near future (thanks to a hardware donation by Anthony Pray), we should be able to issue RFID tokens to all members.

We’re slowly improving things, and input and feedback are always appreciated – though, if you want something done, sometimes it will get done quickest if you’re also willing help do it!

eTextile & Wearable Electronics Worksessions

eTextile Gatherings


eTextile & Wearable Electronics Worksessions

If you’re interested in soft circuits and wearable electronics, I’ve got great news. Tomorrow night I’ll be kicking off a new series of bi-weekly eTextile open worksessions at BrainSilo.

This isn’t a structured class or workshop, more of a regular time to get together and talk eTextiles, work on projects, learn new skills, etc. I’ll be bringing at least one current project that I’m working on, as well as lots of resources, and I’ll have some basic kits available for sale for anyone just getting started.

Whether you’ve been integrating electronics into textile projects for years or are just starting to consider your first, I’d love to see you there. Can’t make it this week? The ongoing schedule is posted on the BrainSilo calendar

Should we do a kickstarter project for a laser cutter?


So it seems to current way hackerspaces are looking at getting a lasercutter is through Recently, on the hackerspaces mailing list, one of the spaces that succeeded in getting a cutter posted a bit about their experiences, and encouraged more hackerspaces to try it.

Three things that popped out at me as being important were:

  • knowing which laser cutter you want
  • A good story for the kickstarter description
  • Physical goods to give away at different contribution levels

Is anyone interested in doing the copy writing for a project? how about ideas for what to give away at different levels?

If we can identify the cutter we want, come up with a description, and the contribution rewards, I’m willing to start the process and get a project going for us. I do think a laser cutter would be an awesome addition to the space, and a good draw for getting more people involved, not to mention being fun and useful!

Welcome to the new BrainSilo website


We’re still working on getting everything up and running. For now, your best bet is probably to check out the wiki:

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