Monday, May 16, 2011

Talking about Nanode - at OxHack. Sunday May 15th.

The one thing I like about Nanode is that it gets you out of the house. A chance Tweet from Oleg Lavrosky from OxHack, suggesting that I join them in Oxford on Sunday seemed a much better option than messing about in the garden.

Having packed my "hack-pack", grabbed my laptop, I bundled them into the Golf and set off around the M25 and up the M40 to meet up with Oleg and his friends in Cowley.

The irony was, that driving 75 miles to Oxford on a sunny Sunday morning is actually quicker and a lot less stressful than trying to cover the 20 miles from my house to the London Hackspace in Shoreditch by public transport.

I arrived in Cowley after an hour and a quarter, but for a variety of reasons, none especially important at this moment, it was about 4 hours before the hacking began in earnest.

By 2pm we were fed and watered at the fantastic Atomic Burger restaurant in the Cowley Road, I even managed to trade a couple of JeeNodes bare boards in exchange for my lunch, with Oleg's Hacker Pal, Ben.

We then headed around the corner to the offices of "White October" - a web design house with co-working space for startups.

Oleg was joined by half a dozen friends and fellow hackers, so I put the LCD projector together on a suitable stand and offered to run through the Nanode presentation, I had prepare for the Pachube Hackathon - about 5 weeks earlier.

You can see it here on Youtube - in 2 parts.

Part 1

Part 2

So instead of spending the day on Nanode documentation and in the garden, I was out promoting Nanode to one of the "up and coming" hackspaces.

Monday 16th May

Back to work with a usual 7:15am start at my desk. Today I had to get the Nanode boards ordered and make a start ordering the components for the proposed 100 off batch build for the weekend of June 4th and 5th.

Nanode in A Box - a self-fund - self-build model

The whole ethos surrounding Nanode is that of accessibility. From the outset it was designed with ease of building in mind - with the use of through hole components and DIL IC packages, it can be built by anyone with basic soldering experience. I have put together a step-by step guide on an earlier blog post.

Whilst the concept of open source software has been around for several years, it was probably the Arduino Project which effectively extended this thinking to the hardware arena. Software is easily downloadable and easily shared, but with hardware you actually have to make something. This process is simplified by the fact that pcb designs share a common file format know as Gerbers, and these are readily accepted by pcb manufacturers so that boards can be made readily. Many PCB manufacturers are offering low cost services for the amateur constructor.

With Nanode, I have chosen to upload the pcb Gerbers to Thingiverse - a repository for electronic designs.

You can find the files here.

The pcb ordering process could not be simpler. Some board fabrication houses have a complete online service on Ebay allowing you to use PayPal for your purchase and buy several of the pcbs at a discounted rate. One such service is Spirit Circuits which will produce a batch of 20 Nanode pcbs for approximately £40 via Ebay when you email them the zipped gerber files for Nanode 5.

You can then download a shopping list or Bill of Materials (BOM) of the electronic components complete with the part numbers for popular component vendors. If you pool purchasing for 20 sets of components, you can build Nanode for under £20 each.

Two weeks later you get 20 Nanode boards back from the pcb manufacturer, and you can then run a weekend workshop showing your fellow hackspace members how to put it together and connect it up to the net and run some apps. Any spare Nanode you have left you can sell and put towards Hackspace funds or use to fund the next batch of 20 units.

Nanode is currently spreading exponentially. I started by building one on a breadboard last August. In March I produced 10 on pcbs and in June there will be a further batch of 100. If it takes off, and continuies to grow at this rate, the whole of the world's global manufacturing output could be committed to producing nothing but Nanodes by April 2014 ;-)

Fortunately, this is unlikely to happen, but hopefully Nanode will evolve into a platform with similar popularity and offshoot projects in the way Arduino has developed.

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