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Comment: Ah, the wikihouse - interesting but *so* expensive (Score 5, Interesting) 96

by vkg (#43870257) Attached to: British Architects Develop Open-Source Home Building

I should start this with a disclaimer: I'm the founder of the Hexayurt Project, a Free Hardware building system aimed at refugees and in widespread use at Burning Man. It's those silver pod things (

I think Wikihouse is exciting technically, but it's *incredibly* expensive to build - something like 7000 EUR of CNC cutting time for a single room. The parametric design aspects of the project are great, however, and I can see a future in which the components are mass produced at reasonable price and then assembled according to plans generated from the parametric design software. But without some kind of standardization, this kind of production is going to remain incurably expensive and therefore just another architectural demo. It's not a technology until costs are estimated. This has happened before: Architecture For Humanity's Open Architecture Network ( rapidly filled with impractical technology demonstrators and student projects - 10000+ designs, but how many practically buildable?

Actually getting buildings that people can build is hard. Architects are trained to think about custom work, one-offs and impressing other architects. Mass producing housing at a price people can afford (hello, Mortage Crisis, goodbye Mortgage Crisis) requires a radical rethink of how we do construction: modularity, prefabrication, standardization - all the same things we did for every other technology we wanted to be cheap, easy and reliable.

It's often said that home building is the last truly-madly-deeply inefficient global industry. Imagine if they built cars by having people come to your garage to hand-assemble them! Whether the radical change is mass manufacture of entire houses Buckminster Fuller style, interchangable modular components (structural insualted panels) or something like 3D printing with insulated concrete, we can't keep buliding houses by hand in a world where everything else is efficiently mass produced with near-zero defects and not distort the shape of our societies.

Hexayurts are dirt cheap and designed for modular mass manufacture. But they look weird. Such is life :-)

Comment: London June 1, we're having an event to fix it (Score 2) 79

by vkg (#43795481) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Makes a Great Hackathon?

"Evolution of Swarm Cooperatives" is about hackathons, unconferences, bar camps etc. - anything where you get a large, reasonably diverse group together in an informal setting to work together, solve problems or learn from each-other. Specific topics to address: more effective code reuse after hackathons, documenting unconferences, and scheduling when you have at lot of potential speakers.

If you're in London and have an opinion, come along - we're about 1/4m from the London Hackerspace on Hackney Road.

Comment: It's a particular issue for the American military (Score 1) 159

by vkg (#43077497) Attached to: Not Quite a T-1000, But On the Right Track

The US military is working very hard on robots to assist in the kind of house-to-house combat they have been involved in during Iraq and Afghanistan. In that kind of conflict, there are a lot of casualties and that puts massive pressure on the politicians back home. The pressure is delayed, but very real.

However, once they get robots which can assist in that kind of conflict, it completely unbalances the US Constitution by essentially removing the Second Amendment: effective combat robots are equivalent to gun control. I think that has some very serious implications.

Comment: My Kickstarter project was a year late - and great (Score 5, Interesting) 247

by vkg (#39641913) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed?

I ran a $2000 Kickstarter to fund a book called The Future We Deserve. The project was to collect 100 essays about the future from 100 people, and then write an analysis which drew out common threads and told a story about the future. The material that came in was so strong, individualistic and subtle that it was simply impossible, after a year of trying off-and-on to make an analysis so we simply accepted that the original task didn't make sense in the face of such strong material, and published it as-is.

We've had a few people be like "where's the book, man?" in that year, and we kept in pretty good touch ("it's in the oven, refusing to cook!")

The book is up on PediaPress now, and people are buying copies and are well pleased with the results, but it was an akward year!

Comment: Moglen's tactics are dumb (Score 1) 236

Alienating reporters is a sure-fire way of getting your cause, no matter how good, totally disrespected. Even if they understand you, they never forgive.

In the long run, there are softer vectors to attack than social networking. A lot of these fears would apply equally well to private social platforms which were not encrypted, just the NSA etc. would have to scrape the data off the wires rather than having nice databases to mine. But the paydirt is still VISA and tax records and face recognition tied to passport databases. I bet social network data, when you get right down to it, is just a nice-to-have compared to the passport biometrics database combined with pen registers etc. for communications.

You might find interesting from this perspective: it's a proposed biometric ID card standard which blinds governments to the biometrics of their population except under special circumstances, and enforces this arrangement with strong cryptography. The passport and driving license databases are key, and this is one way to get rid of them.

Comment: Don't forget about the Open Source alternatives (Score 1) 203

by vkg (#37456870) Attached to: MIT's $1,000 House Challenge Yields Results

There's the Hexayurt Project, which is basically an updated geodesic dome and can be built up to 450 square feet for each module using only hand tools and a screw gun and the Wikihouse which is a fablab style design which relies on a router.

A typical deployment for a family home would be three hexayurts made out of polyiso foam and then sprayed with ferrocement. Cost is probably around $1500 for that approach, but that's first-world costs. With hand-plaster rather than sprayed ferrocement, I think a developing world unit could well hit $1000.

And, of course, a simple plywood hexayurt for disaster relief is $100 per family, half the price of a disaster relief tent.

Comment: What you need is a stadiumsized evaporative cooler (Score 1) 259

by vkg (#36734948) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Large-Scale DIY Outdoor Cooling of Cairo's Tahrir Square? is the commercial version, but it's basically some giant fans blowing through a constantly wet evaporation surface.

On second thoughts, I just checked the climate data and it looks like Cairo tends towards humid heat at this time of year, so that's actually not going to help very much at all.

Back to shade then.

Comment: The Hexayurt and Simple Critical Infrastructr Maps (Score 1) 562

by vkg (#35545694) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Prepared Are You For a Major Emergency?

The hexayurt is an ultra-simple geodesic dome design ideal for mass production in an emergency - just straight cuts with a table saw across plywood, or hand cut insulation boards. They're all over Burning Man but ideal for serious work too (public domain, too)

Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps
is a CC-licensed infrastructure mapping tool which has been partially adopted by the US .mil community for teaching disaster response. Can be really useful for understanding what you actually need to prepare *for*.

+ - Hexayurt Country: helping Haiti with Open Hardware->

Submitted by vkg
vkg (158234) writes "The earthquake in Haiti has left a million people homeless. Hexayurt Country is a well-reviewed plan to use open hardware to provide water, sanitation and storm-resistant shelter in Haiti, transferring essential know-how during the process of reconstruction. It would cost about $60 per head to rebuild the basics for Haiti this way."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Hexayurt Project was up there doing housing (Score 1) 43

by vkg (#27239459) Attached to: Maker Faire Storms Newcastle

We had a ton of fun. The physical lunar lander game was really excellent, and Paka's horse was a terrifying lump of lumbering metal - really one of the most impressive animal robots I've ever seen. Great times.

Comment: Re:I posted four... but I do this for a living ;-) (Score 1) 165

by vkg (#25176521) Attached to: Google To Fund Ideas That Will Change the World

Akvo is *definitely* the right answer for the "main drive" - places where things basically work and they've got resources to do capital investment, however small, on moving further forwards.

Nearly all of my stuff is pointed squarely at the frayed edge, the torn margin, where things have fallen apart too far for investment in conventional vehicles to help. I'm really focussed on people who can carry all they own, more or less.

Still, I shall be surprised if *nobody* I know wins one of these, and I suspect the first step is to fan it out into a more general "this is how you use the internet to spread around what works" platform and, at this point, AKVO's the logical starting point for that.

I mean, if I was implementing the health plan because google coughed up, wouldn't RSR be a logical starting point?

PS: do check out - their stuff *works*

There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence. -- Jeremy S. Anderson