Exciting new events!

We have two very exciting events coming up!

Sunday , July 6, 2014, 2:30PM: Special Effects Make Up 101 RSVP on Meet-Up.

Saturday, July 12, 2014, 2:00PM: Hack the Space Day, Part Deux! Take Two. We tried a second Hack the Space day but it didn’t go as well as planned so we’re giving it another shot. This time it’s really important we get as many members involved as possible. RSVP on Meet Up.

Monday, July 14, 2014 All Day: GrillPFM Following hack the space day on 7/12, special guests at Denhac for Monday, 7/14.  Our tentative partner organization for the LPFM radio station – Open Media Foundation – will send a few of their representatives to meet with our interested board members to discuss our proposed partnership.

The primary purpose of the meeting is to discuss fundraising strategies together with Sabrina from Brown Paper Tickets, who will be in town for a radio conference that weekend.  Her organization sponsored the National Radio Day at Denhac about a year ago, and they promote community radio in Seattle and across the nation.

Burgers and drinks available for any members interested in catching up and listening in, or for anyone who happens to be working on projects while we’re there. :)

Privacy, Identity and Your Local Grocery Store

If you think Facebook knows alot about you, take a look at what your local grocery store is tracking.  If you want (sometimes significant) discounts, you are likely a member of a loyalty program with your local grocery store.  You get a card you scan before you checkout (or just your phone number) and viola! you save $10-20 bucks.  Who wouldn’t?

Imagine how that information (what you – mostly – eat) can be interpreted.  Buy a lot of vegetables fruits and chicken?  How about a medical insurance discount to go along with that?  Oh, you like candy, Nutella and pizza?  We’ll pass that along to your doctor and your insurance company for a future checkup and premium increase.

If they have a pharmacy (and many stores do) they’re able to track that as well.

I’m not saying that’s happening today, but, it easily could.  I mean, really.. did you read that Terms of Service for that loyalty program card? 

And it’s getting even more all encompassing.

Now, of course, there’s an app for that.  Safeway, in this case.

When I walked into the store recently, I was approached by two store employees asking me to ‘sign up for our app’.

They were hitting everyone and they had both doors covered to make sure.  This went on for about a week, every day.

So, of course, I signed up.  It’s an app!  Yay apps!  I asked them some questions about it but they didn’t really know much other than they’d been told to do it.  They had an iPad right there and I was able to set up an account that sent me a link via email to download the app to my phone or tablet.

It’s pretty simple really.  You put in your shopping list (which you can use as a check off list while you’re shopping) and it finds coupons and deals for things you’re looking for.  It also suggests ‘additional’ purchases (with an associated coupon to prod you toward ‘trying it’) that might go with what’s already on your list.  It also gives you coupons for alternative products (let the competition begin!).

What I find fascinating about this, beyond the privacy and identity tracking issues, is how they are creating an entirely new marketplace via coupons.  It’s a little like those endcaps at the end of the aisle- if you sell products at Safeway and you want great placement (end of the aisle) you PAY Safeway to put your products there.  They now have a virtual equivalent that they can sell to companies (pay us X dollars and we’ll put up your Jiff coupon for that peanut butter and not your competitors, even though it says Skippy in their shopping list).

They’re also creating an incredibly powerful direct relationship with their customer base.

This direct relationship effectively destroys traditional local advertising for third parties.  What grocery store is going to put expensive four color ads in a local newspaper when it has a direct, on their phone, relationship with a majority of their customers, for free.

It also means those coupon aggregation services  (Groupon, Living Social, etc.) are about to be cut out of the equation if the local merchants can get everyone to put an app on their phone that links them directly to that local merchant.

And you think no one’s going to put that app on their phone because it’s too many apps?  Think again.  How many places do you go on a regular basis?  I’ll bet it’s one grocery store.  one general purpose store (like Target).  one home improvement store.  Even restaruants… it’s likely you favor only a few.

I’ll bet it’s less than 10 total.  More likely around 5 that you actually go to on a monthly or weekly basis. 

5 apps?  That’s nothing.  That’s less than 30% of one screen on your iPhone.

What about actually reaching all these people with an app?  I shop at the grocery.  All of us do.  It’s part of life as we know it in America.  No avoiding it.  I have a smartphone, everyone I know does and, although it’s not the population as a whole, like broadband internet, it’ll reach 75%+ in, at most, another decade; most likely sooner.  Phone’s are too expensive?  Nope.  Many perfectly useful Android based smart phones are free with a contract.

Imagine some of the big data tricks a store like Safeway could pull off.  Here’s one:

That’s a smartphone.  Trackable to within 30 feet via GPS and a couple of feet if you add in local wifi hotspots.  I can see store managers pulling up real time heat maps of the store layout showing where people go as they shop.  The path they take.  The displays that are ignored and the displays that draw people in like flies.

You think IKEAs (somewhat blatant) way of  forcing you to walk through the entire store to see what they want you to see via a maze… think about doing that in a way that’s far more subtle (and really, manipulative).  But hey.. that’s marketing eh?  Talk about real world data manipulation potentials. 

So, who owns all that data on you?  It’s clearly not yours.  It’s a free service.  Remember this and do not forget it:  If the service is free, you are the product.  Someone is selling all your data to someone, somewhere.

So, privacy.  Big issue.

And identity as well.  What you do is very closely tied up with who you are.  And who sees that data (health insurance company anyone?) can directly effect your finances, and your life.

But damn, I love all those discounts and coupons I get, so I leave the app on the phone.  Just remember it’s there, and know, someone, somewhere, is watching.

Community Broadband: An apparent threat to big business

Every so often you see the real harm that comes from big companies having too much say in the local politics of your town, state or region.

Community broadband is one of those areas.  Just recently, we saw an example of this.  N. Carolina, effectively, made it illegal for a town to have it’s own broadband services.


I live in a town that owns it’s own power and water sources.  It also has a fiber loop that could easily be adapted to provide high speed internet services to businesses and households.  When the town started making noises like it might do just that, Comcast and others created an astro-turf ‘group’ that opposed the town’s interest in being an actual ‘smart’ city.  They spent over a quarter of  million dollars (this is a smallish town; less than 100K people) to get the local population to vote against it.

The first time this happened (in the mid 2000’s), they succeeded.  The second time (last year) they failed.  Now, the city council is visiting places like Chattanooga Tn. to see what a gigbit to the home network can create.  They are impressed, and I am very hopeful our little town here will become one of the dozen or so cities that actually has real broadband services available, to all.

All hail his noodly appendage!

So, I was going to do a long post about my new makerbot. Instead of blogging the long tedious assembly and troubleshooting, I’ll show you my first project with it. :-)

I found a flying spaghetti monster cookie cutter on thingiverse. The print turned out ok, but it had some gaps that food might get stuck in, so I opted to do something other than bake delicious gingerbread monsters.

How about a festive light up Spaghetti Monster? Yup!
I cannibalized a Christmas angel I found at Target for it’s juicy LED bits. and modded my little monster to fit the parts.

Cut out a little slot for the switch.

Slap some guts inside…

grabbed a cheap battery holder from radio shack

added googly eyes and a scrap of shiny vellum paper

And the results!

It slices, it dices, it scratches black shit off rainbow paper!

I borrowed a Cricut cutter from the space the other day. What the hell is a Cricut cutter you ask? I didn’t know anything about this thing, but I found out how amazingly rapey the company is.

Lets pretend grandma loves scrap-booking. She wants to cut letters and shapes out of paper all day and glue them on shit. Her neighbor Betsy’s scrapbook is tight as fuck, so Grandma decides to up her game and drop $300 on a Cricut cutter.

She can’t use her own designs on it, but it comes with a nifty cartridge that has one, very festive looking font. That’s fun for a while, but Christmas is coming up and Grandma has a hard on for snowflake shapes. The craft store sells additional cartridges for $30-&70 a pop. Continue reading


I don’t always blog…. but when I do, it looks like this. I guess I’ll start my new blogging career with a little bio, is that allowed? I like electronic stuff. I like hackerspaces. I even like hacking. I hope the next time I blog I include something that everyone will want to read, but for now thanks for stopping by denhac.org. Come down and meet us. I assure you that the rest of us are much more exciting.