Zero to Hero Class: Pirate Box Edition.

I’ll be teaching a class on how to setup a Pirate Box at the Generator on March 22nd. Check out more info and sign up here.

Want to carry around a world of important data, like Wikipedia, and health guides?piratebox_1
Need a way to share a bunch of files with some folks?
Come learn how to make a PirateBox a tool for sharing information in a secure offline manner!

PirateBox is a DIY anonymous offline file-sharing and communications system built with free software and inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware. Perfect for public spaces as a means of sharing interesting data and having offline discussions.piratebox12During this quick 4 hour  class students will learn how to build a Pirate Box. This class will guide students through the process of converting a plain TP-Link MR3020 and USB thumb drive into a Pirate Box.

$50 lab fee covers purchase of Pirate Box and all necessary materials (MR3020 & USB Drive).

What is a trolley? (link)

I recently found a great set of posts about what a trolley is and how they work at Nathan Vass’ website.  The short version is that a trolley is an electric bus that gets its power from overhead lines.  There are many advantages to using a bus with rubber tires over a train (can change lanes, can avoid obstacles, climb hills without wheel-spin) and many advantages to using an electric bus over a diesel bus, the main reason being torque to climb the hills of San Francisco.

Part i is here
Part ii is here

I originally became interested in the topic last year when I visited San Francisco.  There were many things I liked about the city that appealed to different interests of mine (city planning, green spaces, diverse cultures), but one of the things that stuck out to me was the infrastructure for the trolley system.  This was not something I had expected.


When you look up while downtown, just below the common sight of power lines at the top of the utility poles, you see what looks at first like a rats nest of electric wires.  This is especially so around intersections in the road.  But upon further examination, patterns emerge.  I noticed that the wires were running in pairs of parallel tracks, and where one track crossed another, one of the pairs would have some extra hardware.


I only spent a moment trying to figure out what they could be used for when one of the Muni buses (a trolley) passed me on the street.  These are quiet, exhaust-smell free giants of public transportation that I was instantly in love with.  And this post isn’t about public transportation overall, but if you need an explanation as to why it is good and how a bus can greatly reduce congestion, this GIF explains it beautifully.


Laboratory B at Tech Jam

Tech JamThank you everyone who came and stopped by at our booth at Tech Jam! It was great to meet all of you and we hope to see you down at the space during open hours 6-8pm Tuesday or Thursday soon! Here are copies of the flyers from the table with instructions on making free calls included:

DIY: Screen Printing Laboratory B T-shirts

Members Julia & Kevin have spent the last two nights furiously handing silk screening new Laboratory B t-shirts!  Everything in this proccess is pretty much done by hand. From the printing of the screen, to printing up the shirts, to letting them air dry, ironing and then fixing any mistakes. The shirts aren’t perfect in everyway but that’s what DIY often looks like. You can pick one up at the Lab or at Champlain Mini Maker Fairethis weekend!

The Laboratory B will be running our awesome learn to solder station at Champlain Mini Maker Faire . We’ve got a bunch of kits to learn to solder with, and we might even be having some Arduino fun! We look forward to seeing you there!

Explain Shell

explainshellWhen you first start using Unix based systems you quickly learn about the wonderful world the Unix command shell. One of the first commands you also learn about with “ls”, “cd” and “cat” is “man”. Man is short for manual and almost all unix commands come with a man page. Manual pages are usually quite informative about what the command does and all the options, but sometimes it’s really hard to sort out. This can lead to trouble and frustration (boo!)
If you’re anything like me you might occasionally have a problem with your computer and someone will tell you to run some command with a bunch of flags.. say “iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -s ip-to-block -j DROP ” or “rm -rf /” now you could run this run this or you could pass it to explain shell to help you sort out exactly what a command does. This is also really useful for commands where input is piped from one command to another.

Also check out this article about copy and pasting from the web.

Join #laboratoryb on freenode, and make crank calls with our bot ‘whistler’

d00dz* do you rock out on IRC? If you don’t… You’re missing out on one of the pure joys of geekdom, one of the original forms of the hacker dungeon in cyberspace. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist / brain surgeon / Ada programmer  / BIOS reverse engineer — you just have to download an IRC client**, or use one on the web (which is even easier) and for server use, and then join #laboratoryb (you do know that the hashtag originated from IRC channels, right!?)

Then! You can make all the obnoxious prank calls you want with our friendly*** bot Whistler! He’s our IRC robot who’s hooked up to our Asterisk box at the lab, and he’s got functionality which does a text-to-speech and originates a call to a phone number of your choosing to harangue your friends, foes, or send an “I love you” to your mom from a robot (moms love that, kinda?)

But, the best part is… He’s open source! You can check out all his node.js code on Google Code. So if you want to, you can set up your own instance, or get your hands dirty and improve your skill with node.js by adding feature and improving him.

* And dud3773s, of course.
** May I suggest irssi if you’re a linux geek who likes the CLI, or Quassel if you’re a GUI person (no shame, of course)
*** He might mom joke you now and again, and we hope he hasn’t become sentient.


Event At Laboratory B in September & Late August

We’ve got a bunch of cool events coming up in September. The students are going back to school and the geese are flying South so it must be time for cool stuff!


Locksports Wed, August 28th. 6pm – 8pm:
Come by the Lab and learn about the inner working of locks, safes, and other physical security devices!


Soldering Workshop Thu, September 5, 6:00pm to 8:30pm:
Come by the Lab from 6pm-8:30pm to learn to solder! We’ll be assembling Weevil Eye’s from Sparkfun. Donations welcome, RSVP [email protected] so we know you’re coming.
2600 Meeting Fri, September 6, 5pm – 8pm:
2600 this Friday from 5-8 at the Quarterstaff Game Lounge,(178 Main Street in Burlington Vermont) Get your geek on before football takes over! Traditional old school hacker meetup!
Art Hop: September 6-8, 2013 | Laboratory B CyberPunk Parade!
Laboratory B is having a CyberPunk Costuming Party before Art Hop, and then we are going down to make a spectacle of ourselves and check out some Art.  Check out the R.U Cyberpunk & The Real CyberPunk Fake Book available at the Lab. Leather Jackets, Mirror Shades, & Lasers are the way!
Co-op Happy Hour: Hackerspaces Edition: September 10th, 6pm-8pm:
Summer’s almost over, and it’s time once again for Vermont Cooperators to gather for pizza, beverages, and good conversation. This time around we’ll be gathering at Burlington’s hackerspace, Laboratory B, and there will be a short presentation from members about the hackerspace model/movement ( This Co-op Happy Hour will also be attended by a visiting delegation of students of cooperation from Japan, so be sure to stop by for some interesting cross-cultural discussions! BYOB, and if you want pizza, bring a few bucks to chip in…

Ruby Sessions  Node.js Thu, September 12, 6pm – 8pm:
Inexperienced and experienced  programmers gather to jam on Ruby node.js code.
Python Session Thu, September 19, 6pm – 8pm:
Inexperienced and experienced  programmers gather to jam on Python code. This session focuses on lesson’s from Python The Hard Way.
Locksports Wednesday Wed, September 25, 6pm – 8pm:
Come by the Lab and learn about the inner working of locks, safes, and other physical security devices!

Champlain Valley Mini-Maker Faire:
It’s so big and awesome (like Champ the Lake Monster) Event info here! Time is below.

Saturday, September 28, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, Steptember 29, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Shelburne Farms Coach Barn

Directions to the Laboratory B can be found here


Solarfest Recap..

On Sunday Aaron, Justin & Jesse headed down to Tinmouth, for Solarfest. Solarfest was billed as a blends  of art, education, and outreach to inspire conservation, promote renewable energy, and support sustainable communities. Laboratory B was their to support a maker presences with our learn to solder workshop.

While we were there we got to meet up with Jeff from Sparkfun. 


IMAG0209We operated the soldering booth from 10-3 and afterwards were might hungry so on the way back we stopped at the Middlebury A&W for some burgers and floats.

In the coming weeks we have more soldering workshops to do, in St. Albans & the Centerpoint School. It’s going to be a hot summer!