Third Old North End Repair Cafe this Saturday August 15th!

The next Old North End Repair Cafe is this Saturday, August 15th from 11am-3pm. Come on down and volunteers will do our best to repair anything you can carry in! And if you’d like to help out, please fill out our volunteer interest form (free snacks for volunteers!). This is an outdoor, socially distant event and masks are required.

Also, going on concurrently will be Degrowth Fest which Repair Cafe will be a part of. We’ll have a poster illustrating the merits of repair 🙂

More info on our Repair Cafe page.

 

Second Old North End Repair Cafe this Saturday!

Hello everyone, here are the results for our first Repair Cafe last month. 70% success rate is pretty good! Especially for our first repair cafe. It looks like 29% bicycle but that’s actually sewing!

The next Old North End Repair Cafe is coming up THIS SATURDAY, July 18th! Come on down to 12-22 North st between 11am and 3pm (we can only accept new repairs until 2:15pm)

More info on our Repair Cafe page

Repair Cafe June 20th

Laboratory B will finally hold our first Repair Cafe this weekend on Saturday June 20th. Assuming the weather is clear (we will decide Thursday night whether to postpone) we’ll have tables socially distanced apart for volunteers to repair whatever people show up with! Whatever you can carry with you, electronics, bicycles, furniture, small appliances, etc,  we’ll do our best to repair it for you. All for free!

If you’d like to volunteer please fill out our volunteer interest form.

  • Saturday, June 20th
  • 11am-3pm
  • 12-22 North st

The main Lab B Repair Cafe page is here

Join us on Mumble!

Come hang out with us on our Mumble server. Mumble is a free, open-source, encrypted voice chat application and we’ve been using it to host our virtual member meetings and open hours. We’re online every Thursday from 7pm-9pm, we’d love to have you drop in and say hi.

Getting Started

Start out by downloading the Mumble client for your device. There are even clients for Android and iOS so you can connect from your phone.

After installing, you’ll want to grab some headphones, and get set up using Mumble’s Audio Wizard. If you run into audio issues after setup, you can always re-run the wizard from the Configure menu dropdown. This step is important so everyone can hear you clearly, and your mic only turns on when you’re talking.

Get Connected

These instructions are designed for the desktop Mumble client. If you’re using your phone, they’ll be slightly different, but the connection info is the same.

You’ll want to add the Lab server by going to the Server menu, then clicking Connect, and Add New. You’ll be prompted for a username, this can be anything, and others will see it when you join.

Mumble "Add Server" dialog

In the Add Server dialog that comes up, enter the mumble.laboratoryb.org in the Address field and press OK.

A list of servers will show up. Double click the new mumble.laboratoryb.org server you just added (under Favorite), and a message will come up prompting for a password. You’ll need to enter the password “laboratoryb” – without quotes.

That’s it! Any time you’d like to connect, load up Mumble and connect to the server you added.

Connection Info

Address: mumble.laboratoryb.org
Port: 64738
Username: this can be anything you’d like!
Label: this can be anything, adjusts the server name in your list

Policies and Activities During the COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Order

At the Lab monthly meeting tonight, we decided on the policies that we’ll be keeping in playe until the Vermont “Stay-At-Home” order is lifted, and also some ideas for virtual events we’ll be putting on in the meantime.

Policies:

      • No public in-person events until the State of Emergency from City and State is lifted.
      • Only one member may be in the space at a time. Members are expected to sanitize door knobs and any surfaces they use when they leave.
      • Members will log their use of the space, and post to Slack if they are headed in so other members will know the space is in use.

Virtual Events:

  • Thursdays, 7-9pm – Minecraft hang-out: Instead of our usual in-person public hours, we’ll have weekly Thursday night hang-outs on a Minecraft server a member created, with audio chat facilitated by the Lab Mumble server. We’re not posting the login credentials publicly to avoid griefers, but friends of the Lab are welcome, so feel free to reach out to a current member for details.
  • Saturdays, 7:30-10pm – FOSS Virtual LAN Party: Each week we’ll pick a different FOSS game to play together, with voice chat on the Lab Mumble server. Check the Lab Facebook page for specifics, but we’ll be starting the series off with RTS 0AD

March 14th Repair Café Postponed

We have decided to postpone the Old North End Repair Café due to public health concerns around gatherings. We are still planning on hosting the Repair Café on April 18th, 2020. We will provide further updates on our Facebook page and here at laboratoryb.org.

We’d like to thank everyone in the community for their interest, as well as everyone who signed up to volunteer. We are greatly looking forward to our debut, so stay tuned!

Feel free to message us on Facebook or send an email to [email protected] with any questions.

Jumping the CoreOS Container Linux Ship

The end is within sight for CoreOS Container Linux: May 26, 2020. For a few years now we’ve made use of Container Linux for hosting the laboratoryb.org website. Sadly, this is where our CoreOS journey ends, with end-of-life coming right around the corner.

We’ve finally jumped the CoreOS ship over to Flatcar Container Linux by Kinvolk, an OSS fork of the original project. Everything has been faithfully copied over and is once again running smoothly.

Thanks to Kinvolk for keeping the Container Linux legacy alive!

Downsizing our Servers to Skin and Bones at 12-22 North

It’s been quite a move for Laboratory B! Our new location at 12-22 North has come with plenty of perks, but at the same time, it’s placed new constraints on things like space, parking and electricity use. As Matt Cropp mentioned in the previous post, the new space has a cap on free electricity use – so as part of the move, we’ve had to temporarily suspend our on-site server hosting policy.

Unfortunately, that conflicts with one of the priorities we formulated during the move – that we should consider migrating away from the locked-down services (offered by Google, Amazon and their ilk), and instead look towards self-hosted, open-source infrastructure to run our day-to-day Lab activities. (After all, free and open-source software is practically in our mission statement.)

So, how could we reduce our power footprint but still run servers? One suggestion was to use virtual private servers (VPS) – but the monthly cost of hosting was potentially prohibitive, and relying on webhosting would bring us further from truly controlling our own infrastructure. The nail in the coffin, though, was probably that we still had a surplus in our budget of renewable electricity – and some napkin math showed it might be enough to run servers with, if only we use the right kind of hardware. Napkin math devolved into discussion about Intel “Avoton” Atom processors and triple-digit-core ARM boards – but discussion matured into dejection when the price tags came up. The Lab did not have loose cash.

Around the same time, I had set up a Dockerized GitLab server on an old Mac Pro at home, to help organize our projects and handle support tickets from AJ, our landlord at 12-22 North. (Context: As a component of our lease, we are granted a rent discount in exchange for rendering IT support, in a sort of skill-share scheme.) I soon discovered, however, that the Mac Pro doubled as a space heater, drawing over 200W at near idle. I needed a solution that wouldn’t cook me alive when the summer came around – and one night, as I aimlessly browsed Youtube, the solution presented itself.

Laptops!

Laptop are plentiful, use cheap RAM, idle at low wattage, have an integrated UPS (the battery, duh!) and KVM – all things a server could use! Plus, if you don’t mind going without one or two of those things, you can find some absurdly cheap hardware – and find I did, in two dirt-cheap X230 motherboards. Long story short, for $100 a pop, I was able to cobble together two machines (i5-3320M + 16GiB DDR3), each of which could rival the Mac Pro, but which consumed a whopping nine watts at near-idle – 5% of what the Mac Pro was drawing.

Stripped-down laptop attached to a keyboard and monitor.
I christen thee Bones Mk1!

As hacky as it is, having a server solution that can be hosted at the Lab means we can house new open-source platforms – Etherpad / Etherdraw, Mattermost, Funkwhale, Mastodon, Matrix … for just now, the GitLab is the lone tenant, but our only limit is how many laptop skeletons we can fit in our server closet.