Profile: Dublin’s Hackerspace, TOG, shows the good side of hacking
You can tell a lot about a person from their reaction to the words, “Yeah, we built a death machine.” You can tell even more from their reaction when they first see it.
The death machine in question is the Rubin’s Tube, built in Dublin’s Hackerspace, Tog.
It looks like a large crate, save for the scorch marks at the back which are positioned at the same points as the evenly spaced holes along the metal pipe running down the centre of the box. On the side lies a gas inlet and a pilot light. Through an Arduino circuit the inlet coordinates gas flowing the down the pipe, when this is connected to a music device the resulting flames can be seen dancing.
In case you were wondering a Hackerspace is an informal club where members come together to combine technologies, arts and skills to create new things. TOG’s diversity of talent is on show as soon as you enter the space, with a homemade 3D printer in the corner, circuit board art on the walls and an arts and crafts room to the side (plus the death machine outside).
Before you start thinking that a hackerspace sounds like a morally dubious, if not illegal, place then be assured that the hack in hackerpace comes from the activity to hacking something together (such as a house alarm that sends text messages when it is set off).
Although, if there was ever a bad time to call yourself a hacker, now is it. This year alone hacking groups headed by LulzSec and Anonymous have brought down Sony’s PlayStation Network, broken into The Sun Newspaper, and stolen files from NATO. But hackerspaces, and TOG, are not to be confused with these; Christian, a member of TOG explains that the club is a place for creative and technically minded people to come and experiment and socialise. They hack together to create rather than destroy.
Dublin’s hackerspace has been around for two years and with 30 members it is one of the largest in the country, and one of a number of growing clubs in Europe and the United States. It began January 2009 after a number of the founding member attended Hackerspace conference in Germany. Yet, each Hackerspace has its own atmosphere and ways of doing things; Some operate an open door policy while others take a vote on new members.
TOG operates on a self-motivated, community-driven, ethos; projects are taken-on based on the interests of the members and although the members have meeting every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the club is open to whoever has a key, whenever they wish, as a place to work. Some member group together to work on projects while others, who have experience or expertises in a certain area, provide classes. These are facilitated in the Dublin Hackerspace’s library, kitchen (with self-made can crusher), craft area, workshop, and class room.
TOG.ie provides all this to its users for a small membership fee, which is used to fund the running of classes, events; the purchasing of equipment, and the rent of space and amenities on a not-for-profit basis. But while TOG is doing well it is still in need of members with diverse interests.
Christian says, ” We’re in need of new blood and are looking for members from experts to people with a casual interests.” He adds, “For new members we are open from 7 to 10 but they can come in whenever they like and the resources are available all day.”