Archive for May, 2010



I’d like to extend a thank you to San Francisco’s Noisebridge hackerspace for being so hospitable and friendly towards me during my time here. On Friday when I arrived in SFO, I took the BART straight to Noisebridge and hung out there till that night. It was nice to be in an environment where I could work, learn, and talk, despite being a stranger in this city.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people and was even invited out to dinner that night. San Franciscans really love their lights, I’ve found. Our crepe restaraunt had fancy fading rainbow lights.

I’ve included a picture of Noisebridge at a fairly dormant time.

Making Fulgurites

We recently acquired a pole pig at the lab. We bought it off a guy who didn’t have time for a high voltage hobby any more, and so far we’ve made a Jacob’s ladder with it, and used it to make fulgurites.

Fulgurites are the figures made by lightning hitting sand (or other melty grainy materials). We don’t have lightning but we can definitely simulate it with the pole pig. We start by putting sand (100lb for $7 at Home Depot) in a terracotta pot. We stick electrodes from the transformer straight into the pot and turn it on. The result comes out like this.

They're beautiful and fractally.

We then epoxy them into nice solid pieces of art. I made a video about the process for my science class.

Fulgurite Production at Hackerbot Labs from Nick Mooney on Vimeo.

Credits to Pip aka @yoyojedi for helping me out with this. He’s the fulgurite master and was nice enough to teach me how.

Verizon Sent Me the Wrong Phone

On Wednesday, April 28, my Motorola Droid broke (the second time). A piece inside the microUSB port fell out while unplugging my phone, leaving the phone un-chargeable unless put in an odd position at an angle: not fun. No problem though, right? I’m still under warranty. Sure enough, Verizon was nice enough to send me a replacement phone, overnight, free of charge. Awesome! It shipped out April 29 and I got it on the 30th.

When the phone arrived I went through the fairly standard procedure: wipe data from old phone, keep battery/card/back-cover, install them in new phone and activate by dialing *228. In a few minutes after waiting on crappy activation music, it was done. My phone instantly picked up a signal and I went on my merry way packaging up the old phone to send back.

I started to notice some weird things that night though. The first was that I was told I had to dial the area code while ‘roaming’. This was weird, but I figured dialing *22899 to refresh the cell tower data would fix it. No luck though. Oh well– it’ll sort itself out. Then I started getting messages from my friends asking why I wasn’t answering my phone. I decided to run an experiment by calling my home phone from my cell. The caller ID showed up as a 410 area code (Maryland). It was bidirectional too, meaning my phone rang when I called the Maryland number. My old local number went straight to voicemail.

I called up Verizon and told them about the issue, and the rep I had was very confused by the situation. I was put on hold a couple times and told that he would have to converse with a higher-up. Verizon claims that they can’t program the phone remotely to my correct number and decide to ship me yet another new phone, same as last time. Meanwhile, I have no access to my old number and some poor soul in Maryland probably wants their number back. I can make and receive calls on this Maryland number, and Verizon recognizes me as the person on that account. Luckily though, it was secure enough such that I couldn’t make any account changes without the social security number.

The new (Droid #4) phone is set to arrive tomorrow, and hopefully it’ll work just fine. I’ll have 3 Droids in the house then… but I have to send 2 of them back via prepaid FedEx.