Get your face out of the eggnog and listen for a minute

The future is coming, and it’s coming in a 3d printed, North American manufactured, computer-driven electric car.

There are two ways this can go, and it’s really up to you. One way is the last-century model. Wait around long enough and GM will start cranking out some ghastly, bug-ridden, fragile POS. They’ll charge you 217 dollars for it, but it will break down every week and repairs, regardless of how minor, will always cost another hundred bucks. Every piece of equipment and software on it will be proprietary (and not very good, as a result), and only certified GM technicians will be allowed to service it, under threat of lawsuit and voiding the warranty.

But if we all pay attention and put in the effort, it can go the other way.

Toyota knows what’s up. They’re championing a new Linux distro – Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). Nissan, Intel, Samsung and some other big names are in on it as well. It’s the smart thing to do – crowd sourced software is cheaper, stronger, and better than anything proprietary, simply because anyone who has a vested interest in using the product has the ability to submit changes to make it be the way they need it. And even if the changes aren’t accepted by the project leaders, that vested developer can still download the code and change it however they want for their own purposes.

3D printers are hip, happening, and getting cheaper every week. And there’s an open source schematic for one that can reproduce itself. The next manufacturing boom isn’t going to come from enslaved Chinese babies. It’s going to be American entrepreneurs, you know, all those guys who got laid off in 2008 and haven’t found steady work yet, printing chassis’ up in their garage.

IMG_1089

The final step is the electric motor and power source. Not a new problem, and there are lots of old and new solutions. Pick your favorite and whang it into your 3d printed, Linux powered robot car.

I hear your pain – but Shannon, I LOVE driving! Why would I want a robot to do it for me? Hey, I’m with you, 100%. I spend every spare moment in the summer belting around single-lane backroads on my tiny motorbike. I love driving as much as anyone. But the early adopters aren’t going to be speed freaks like us – it’s going to be people who are Getting Shit Done(tm). Business people who have phone calls to make, code to write, spreadsheets to analyze, and places to go. Time spent in traffic is wasted time when you’re working for a living. Make the car work for you. It’s going to happen either either way, so let’s do it OUR way.

stock-photo-8373821-confident-businesswoman-on-a-white-background

 

Also, this: http://craphound.com/makers/

A Rough Year

I guess it’s been an eventful year.

Bike stuff:

I built a polo bike and a flatland bike. Sold a road bike and acquired a mountain bike. Rebuilt a motorcycle carburetor, and replaced almost all the major parts of that motorcycle (it’s almost reliable now!). Road tripped to Washington on my motorbike, went to a flatland jam in Vancouver, played a ton of bike polo, scored at least one goal (never said I was good at it, lol!). Went on group rides with motorbike people. Had intense conversations about gear ratios. Learned how to do foot-jam endos and dork wheelies.

blue road bike

 

Car stuff:

Co-owned a van, a Lexus, a vintage Toyota Corona, 2 BMWs and 2 Toyota Corollas. Helped build up one of those Corollas from chunks of metal found in a yard. Drove the rubber off them all. Went on numerous drifting ride alongs and even drove myself a couple of times. Spent a happy week of evenings on my back in the mud and snow bolting together a car that was destined never to run.

red toyota corolla

Computer stuff:

Built this website that you’re reading, a Java application for scoring racecars and an Android app for calculating carburetor displacement. Completed 3/4ths of a diploma in Computer Systems Technology (6 months to go). Wrote a lot of blog posts, some of which have been read people other than my mom. (hi mom!). Talked my way into, and quickly out of, a job at an actual software company. Went back to school and learned some more, then got a summer job doing tech work in the government. Then back to school still again, with a job doing peer support there, an opportunity that wouldn’t have been available to me a year ago.

But Despite All That

It’s honestly been the most eventful year of my life. I  don’t think this list covers even a third of it. Through it all, though, I’ve been struggling with mood swings that I want to run away from, feelings of hopeless abandonment, weeks where I’m convinced that no one in the world wants to be near me. Feeling that way as I write this, to be honest. I wrote this post as a way to reach out, and let people know that I want to build stuff with them, listen to whatever obscure thoughts they’ve got going through their mind, and generally build up a community and a family. Even writing that sentence is hard, cause I feel like a total idiot for saying such things and am fairly certain that people will glance at it, think “huh, weirdo”, and move on without a second thought. But there it is, an invitation to anybody else who’s feeling lonely and directionless.

Also, I want to mention how much I appreciate my actual family. I keep on forgetting that they really do love me, and are in fact available for conversation and comfort. I know where I got the confidence and discipline to carry on even when I’m struggling. Every time I remember I’m freshly grateful. Hope you all have a happy new year. And please, all you rad people, make a point of bragging to me about your accomplishments, so that I can congratulate you in person.

The time you enjoy is not wasted time.

 

Success with Stripe

In a previous post, I remarked on my difficulty with getting Stripe running.  I see it’s been almost 2 months since I posted that. Boy, I take a while sometimes, but I get stuff done. I finally found success with the help of an excellent tutorial by the handsome and intelligent Mark Hagan.

It turned out that it actually was easy, once I saw how it was done. But like changing a tire or getting a date with an attractive stranger, lots of “easy” things aren’t, until you actually do them.

I had no idea how to use an API from an external website. Some of the pieces I was missing:

  • That you need to include reference to an external library, and how to do so
  • Realizing that the term “library” refers to the C# git repository that was linked to on the Stripe APIs page, which I downloaded, but had no idea what to do with.
  • Adding an API key to an XML file – XML is another one of those things that’s very easy, provided you know how.

Well, I learned.

For a little extra drama, I should let you know how close this project came to helping me fail a course this semester. I decided to use Stripe in a project that required the use of a REST API in a .NET application.

I was motivated to master Stripe. But I couldn’t figure it out. I looked for “Stripe tutorial” on youtube, and got videos about nail polish. I googled everything I could think of, but even when something looked helpful, my rising panic made it difficult to comprehend. The assignment was 30% of the course mark. I did badly on the midterm and had low hopes for the final. On the due date, I had nothing to show for 2 weeks of work, had given up panicking, and almost given up altogether.

But the teacher decided not to show up that day, and we were given another week. That night, Mark uploaded the tutorial I linked to. It looks like it was sitting on his hard drive for a year before he got around to posting it, just in time to save me. I didn’t even look for it, youtube suggested it. From there, Stripe, ASP.NET, my Windows 7 installation,  and the rest of my life fell neatly into place, and the assignment is waiting for it’s A.

Thanks Mark. PS, I tried to buy you a beer, but I got an error, LOL! Message me if you fix it and see this.

 

For non-experts:

REST stands for Representational State Transfer, and is a standard method for taking information from another website, and using it on your own website.

API means Application Programming Interface. An API is a library of computer code that can be used to implement REST.

.NET is a big library of code provided by Microsoft to make it easier to write Microsoft-style software.

Visual Studio is a program that helps programmers tie all of the above methods together into an application or website.