Twitter, Another Social Network?

I honestly never really bought into the idea of using Twitter until recently. While I was attending events I would always hear the sponsors saying “tweet at us” but that never really made me want to join another social network. This weekend changed how I thought about it.

 

It’s cool for companies, but why do I care? That was my main question before this weekend.

“Facebook is for friends, Instagram is for posting photos of your life, LinkedIn is for resumes and professional connections, but Twitter is a social space for professionals”.

I paraphrased what a work friend said, but the message still rings true.

  1. Twitter is becoming the social space for people and companies with similar interests to interact with each other and grow off those ideas.
  2. It’s a fast paced social interaction with more and more companies responding faster to customers and developers through Twitter than email.
  3. Twitter can even help you gain that connection through email or phone if you don’t have one already!
  4. It could help propel your reputation in the particular space you are working in. (for me that would be Internet of Things)
  5. It allows you to track trends that you might be interested in with hashtags.
  6. The 140 character limit helps you learn to be succinct

Why do companies care? Companies are using Twitter to gauge the publicity of certain ads or campaigns as well as how engaged their audiences are with their products. This works really well for startups trying to create publicity around themselves and their products because of how social and easily re-tweetable conversations are.

Tips:

  • Since it can be used as a professional social space and everything on the internet sticks, I would suggest not posting your every thought. No one cares that you made a really good sandwich (unless you’re a chef trying to promote yourself) and you don’t want to hurt your reputation with unprofessional tweets about last night.
  • Follow companies and people that are doing things that you are interested in.
  • Stay active and retweet interesting conversations and post some of your own!

 

Hackster Hardware Weekend (Hackathon)

I had the chance to participate this past weekend in a Hackster.io Hardware Weekend in Seattle and was blown away by the setup. Like most hackathons, they had big sponsors like Intel, Microsoft, Spark, AT&T, etc. However, unlike most of the software hackathons I have been to, they provided some hardware for people to use including Intel Edison boards with Seeed Studio Starter Kits and more. They also provided some cool and useful swag like a portable charger (which I used to power a Spark Core for my demo) and a small portable Leatherman pocket tool that is perfect for my recent maker lifestyle. The energy they provided was just spectacular and even though it was their first time hosting a hackathon, I think it went smoothly.

The food wasn’t just your normal pizza and salad hackathon meals. It also included a legitimate breakfast with bacon, eggs, bagels, cheese, etc. Lunches and dinners were comprised of delicious sandwiches (kind of like Banh Mi), mexican food, and one meal of pizza. On the side they have a whole bunch of candy, popcorn, and more snacks along with the steady supply of coffee, soda, juice, and water.

Unfortunately, like with most hackathons, the crowd of participants thinned out by day 2 with most of the remaining people being interested in learning more or deeply involved in the hacking process.

I came to the event without a clue as to what I was going to build and not really sure if I wanted to join a team, make one, or run it solo. After hearing about some of the prizes for using certain APIs (Weather Underground and WebRTC) I decided to focus my time on the Weather Underground APIs. Even after deciding what I wanted to use, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of what my final product would be and how it could change the world. I just decided to start hacking something together that I thought would be cool to own and ended up going down the path alone.

Stages of my Creation:

  1. Started with the idea to read the forecast for the day and display it to you through an small LCD screen so that I wouldn’t need to pull up an app to view the forecast. Decided to use the Intel Edison, Cylon.js, and the Weather Underground APIs to do this.
  2. Added functionality that would open your windows using a servo if your indoor temperature was past your comfortable zone and the outdoor temperature was colder. I also added functionality to change these settings through buttons and rotary angle sensors on the board.
  3. Added functionality to push the data to the cloud
  4. Realized that I could also connect to a Spark Core and communicate with it via WiFi and the Cloud from the Intel Edison, so I integrated a lighting scenario with a wireless connection.
  5. Created a prototype case for the now deemed “Hub” in Autodesk Fusion 360.
  6. Created a webpage using AngularJS on Azure that would showcase the data my back-end was receiving so that I could view information on the go.

The prototype Open Source Home Automation Hub was born.

Some things I’ve come to realize for my next hackathon:

  • Work in teams! I worked solo this weekend and although I did a lot of work to combine all the components, I definitely could have gone further with the idea and took it to the next level ending up with a professional product rather than a hacked together demo.
  • Set up a team before hand and know the expertise of everyone in the team and how best to leverage them. (This also might mean vet out the people who might have less to contribute if you are going hardcore)
  • Sometime’s it’s more about the presentation, the story, and the idea than the execution during the hackathon (although that might be due to the hardware nature of this hackathon). After all, you only have so much time both to hack and to present your creation.
  • Network! This is really just a great opportunity to meet other people in a related field and find out their skills and platforms of choice. Who knows? You might find a couple new tools that might be useful for your future endeavors.
  • Roll with it. A vision is great, but be able to adapt if things don’t work out quite like you expected.  Sometimes code breaks and it can be stressful but learn from it and debug better.
  • Have fun!

OpenSCAD (Required for the Maker)

Today after finishing the prints for the parts I need for my 3D printer model, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I hadn’t checked the measurements for the holes / rods and since I had gone with the US alternatives to the metric measurements, some parts just wouldn’t work. DOH!

This led to my next realization. The open source community provides the files in easily configurable SCAD files not Autodesk files or STL (STL would have been alot more difficult to edit although it can be taken and printed immediately).

In case you didn’t know, the beauty of SCAD files is that they are essentially programs. OpenSCAD is pretty much the open source standard for creating 3D objects before exporting them into STL format. It is a functional description Red and Yellow Cubes SCADlanguage that dictates the characteristics of the object that allows for reusable variables and one configuration file with the power to change your whole print library! Here’s an example that creates these two rectangular blocks:

If you have been reading my blog posts, I had started using Autodesk Fusion 360 and I thought it was one of the best programs for 3D modeling. Little did I know that the open source community didn’t hand out files consumable in Autodesk and the power behind SCAD files in the open source community is how easily the objects can be customized especially since altering a bunch of STL files would take serious time in Autodesk Fusion 360.

Solving Problems with 3D Printing Models

I recently stumbled upon a bizarre issue. I had this 3D model I had created in Autodesk Fusion 360 and it looked great, albeit strange due to the supports I added around it.

Model

It rendered properly on MakerBot Desktop, and I figured that I could just print it without issue and come up with something similar to my design and then perfect it later. Here’s what I ended up with:

lightbox_actual

Woah where’s the cavity? Why is it filling it in? I took a look at the print preview and how the slicer was splitting up the layers only to find that it had filled in the box!

rendered

I couldn’t figure out why the rendering showed it with a cavity but the printer was receiving instructions to fill it in. I thought that it might be the combination of Autodesk Fusion 360 and Makerbot Desktop software that is the problem, so I called them to ask about it. It turns out that it happens across the board from time to time with different 3D modeling software. Prints don’t necessarily turn out the same way they’re rendered, especially with more complex designs. (That’s how I learned to always check the print preview on a 3D printer. No one wants to spend a couple of hours on a wasted print.)

The Solution:

I heard about a repair tool that might help called Netfabb, so I decided to try it out and see how well it would perform. I can’t speak for the full downloadable tools, but I found out that they have a cloud service (https://netfabb.azurewebsites.net/) which will allow you to upload your STL files, repair them, and then download the fixed version (free as long as it’s for non-commercial use). This fixes some of the issues you might be seeing with your prints. (Remember to double check them through the print preview though)

Impressive Hydrophobic Shirt (Silic)

Silic was the first Kickstarter I ever backed (check out what their kickstarter page was like here) and it took about a year for them to get the product shipped to me, but I am definitely impressed by it’s ability to repel liquids. Check out a video of me testing it out with honey, soy sauce, and water.

I tried hot coffee later too and while it did mostly bead off, it left some residue that I had to use water to get off after (supposedly this is due to it being a hot liquid).

The creator had some troubles with his distribution and production which is what led to it taking about a half year longer than expected, but kept updating the backers with detailed information on the process and this ultimately kept his reputation steady despite the delay.

Notes the product as it stands today:

  • Try not to spill hot liquids on it in huge quantities. (If you do, just through on some water and try and pat out the liquid. The water helps to dilute whatever might be kind of sticking to the shirt.)
  • It will soak up water if you submerge it in liquid, but will bead off again as it dries.
  • The stitching does not seem to be the same sort of material and could possibly retain colored liquids (some of the soy sauce I tested got into the stitching, but after I rinsed off the shirt with a lot of water I could not see any staining)
  • It does seem to be a little thing (the white would definitely show my skin if I didn’t have an undershirt)
  • The collar isn’t a normal stretchy color, so don’t pull on it too much.
  • Unfortunately, you can only pre-order for a Winter 2015 batch currently.

Thoughts on Kickstarter:

  • Whatever money you put into a Kickstarter, you should be okay with the possibility of not recouping anything from it (although this doesn’t happen often if you choose good projects)
  • They provide you with tips for considering a kickstarter like the founder’s reputation, history, how well their business model seems to be set up, etc.
  • It’s a great way to assess the market for the product you are creating.
  • Great way to build publicity for a product that you plan on creating.
  • Why take out loans or sell equity in your company to investors when you can take pre-orders? (which is essentially what most of the rewards are)

If you want to pre-order one of these shirts, go to the Silic Shirts site http://silicshirts.com/order/

Other side of the Interviewing Loop (The Interviewer)

By the time we get to this point in our careers, most people have participated in plenty of interviews as the candidate. We know what it’s like to be interviewed, but do you really know how to do the interviewing? If you think back, do you know what made an interview horrible and soured the idea of working at a company? The key to being a great interviewer is to treat the candidate like a customer. You want to make sure that they leave loving your company even if they didn’t get the job.

Some helpful tips I’ve received for interviewing in the Software Space:

  • Ask about problems that you or your teammates had to code and solve. This allows you to fully understand the problem you are posing, how you would solve it, and understand their thought process/tradeoffs and maybe even get new ideas on how it could have been solved.
  • Classify them and your team (these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but most people tend to be stronger in one):
    • System Dev: Developers more adept at creating the system and building blocks for others to use. They can understand their users/developers and the possible scenarios in order to build an elegant structure that supports the correct usage.
    • App Dev: Developers that are able to use existing APIs and take the building blocks given to them to solve a problem and build a robust solution.
  • The candidate should be flexible. It’s great if someone is a master at one thing and one language, but this is a fast paced development space. You need to be able to enhance your skills and learn on the fly.
  • Analyze the candidate with respect to the job that they will have within your team in the near future and what your daily interaction will be like with them, but also keep a broader idea of whether the person would be a great hire for the company.

Middle Button Craziness with Microsoft Mouse

Lately I have been doing a lot of work in Autodesk Fusion 360 and panning/orbiting has been kind of a pain with the use of just my left click button. I knew there had to be a shortcut and found out that the middle button should allow you to pan and orbit, but that functionality wasn’t working for me at all. Instead it would scroll out on a big scale.

After looking into my normal mouse settings, I realized I had no option of customizing the middle mouse button?? That didn’t seem right.. There had to be a way!

Here’s the solution I found:

If you are using a Microsoft mouse, download IntelliPoint 7.0 and you will be able to customize your mouse button settings and change the middle button from flip to middle click.

Mouse

In my particular case it matters how I press down on the scroll wheel. If I press down on it from above, it still counts it as a scroll action, but if I press the back half, it recognizes it as a middle click.

MouseMiddleButton

If you are interested in learning more about the Autodesk Fusion 360 shortcuts, CAD Forum has a good compiled list.