Tag Archives: hudsonvalley

Centers of Gravity

The past couple of years something interesting has been happening with the Linux Users Group, it’s growing. After a long number of years of lulling in the low 20s and sometimes teens in meetings, we’re now regularly in the 30s and ran up past 40 folks twice last year. Our last meeting had 34 people in the room for the lecture, and 19 come out to dinner afterwards (and this is all in a new location that’s slightly harder to find). I’ve had various theories as to why, but another one cropped up last night after the Hudson Valley Drupal Meetup: Telecomuters.

There is a new reality out there, with a very large chunk of the population telecommuting. But giving up an office means giving up lunch with colleagues, and the small talk and hallway chatter that gets the brain juice flowing. These things are really important for a healthy psyche, and a healthy business, so people are reaching out for new face to face venues to get those interactions. This has taken the form of coworking spaces, regional conferences, and users groups. These are becoming new centers of gravity for the tech world.

Last night, after the Hudson Valley Drupal Meetup, some really cool connections were made between local folks, and I’m really excited to see what comes out of it. None of it would have ever happened without this growing constellation of face to face technical communities we’ve got in the Hudson Valley: MHVLUG, Squidwrench, and emerging so, the Drupal Meetup.[1] I am really fortunate to be a part of this, and to have great peer Organizers in Sean Swehla and Ben Stoutenburgh that are equally dedicated to fostering this. While each of these entities are distinct things, they feed into each other very strongly, which is becoming a great virtuous spiral.

If you haven’t checked out your local technical community, you are missing out. Start with Google and Meetup and see what’s going on, because you might be really surprised and impressed with what’s in your own back yard.

1. I play favorites here because these are the groups I’m actively involved with, but we’ve got a more comprehensive list at the HVSTEM Calendar.

A snapshot of Dutchess County New York

After failing to convince a friend that his statement of “earning potential in the pure computer field in Dutchess county is around $27-30K at best” was both baseless, and entirely made up, I started trying to find some real data on what the answer was.  The fact that I just posted about the need for Data literacy made the event that much more ironic.

Along the way I found the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation’s economic report.  It’s quite interesting, and gives a rather extensive set of data about the county, including housing and employment statistics.  Most of the data looks to be from 2008, though there are comments about updates in 2009.

And, at least a partial answer was found to the first question, on page 6 of the report, in the Representative Median Salaries 2008 section:

Computer Programmer – $82,690
Network Administrator – $61,210

Hudson Valley Earth Day… and a new kind of green

About the time that Susan and I started dating, Susan when to a book signing with a friend for Dare to Repair.  It’s a basic manual of home repair written to a target audience of the recently divorced woman who’d always let her husband do all the handy work.  The book was a modern day women’s lib, as there is a certain amount of independence, mental and financial, that comes from being able to fix things.  The contents of the book were pretty basic, but given its target audience, it probably hit the right balance.

More importantly it raised the real issue, people shouldn’t be afraid of things that are broken.

I = V / R

The repair skills of a generation ago don’t really prepare us for today’s world.  A modern car has 100 million lines of source code.  Most of your home appliances are complex computers.  The glowing LEDs that surround you should be a constant reminder of just how much of our world is built on the IC: the Integrated Circuit.

A few months ago, due to some encouragement from the Squid Wrench meetings, I decided it was time to dive back into my college electronics and see what I could relearn.  Susan was originally skeptical, as this was a new hobby with a few hundred dollars worth of startup costs.  As soon as I got my new soldering iron I dug in to fixing some LED light strands that had a few wires sheered.  One strand was successful, the other way not.  A decent start, but not great.

The real success came the following weekend when I decided to crack open a chime alarm clock that Susan had bought a few years ago, which stopped working 6 months later.  It had been laying on a shelf for years.  After some poking and prodding, and adding insulation between a couple of wires, it came back to life.  The clock, new, is more than a hundred dollars, so my investments were starting to show returns.  Later that day I managed to fix a 5 year dead Shruti Box, which was another hundred dollars recovered.

None of these repairs required stellar amounts of skill, but they required determination to open up the black box and try to figure out what was going on on the inside.  It is a determination that is being bred out of us as our everyday devices are showing up hermetically sealed from vendors that just want us to buy a new one in 12 months and throw the old one out.

A new kind of green

Last year our local fairgrounds had a Green Fair and Expo in April, which we went to.  It looked a lot like a home show with slightly more discussion of solar and geothermal.  Of the hundred or so vendors there I found about 3 that I cared to talk to.  This year, it was a very different event.  It was billed as an Earth Day celebration, and the green fair aspects of marketing slowly evaporated as we got closer to the event.  There were hardly any vendors, a lot of the space was given up to musicians and lectures.  Space wise it was poorly set up, and you could see that they got a lot fewer booths than they’d expected.

However, there was one thing that was really inspiring.  There was a table set up for the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange: “a non-profit community warehouse for materials rescued from the business wastestream”.  You could buy various wood, metal, plastic and textiles that were the intermediate stages of some manufacturing.  Stuff that would otherwise end up in a landfill.  This group has apparently been around for a decade.

It also spawned a giant swappapalooze area in a separate tent where kids were building all kinds of things with wood, cloth, glue, and anything else they could get their hands on.  That’s an inspiring thing to see now adays.  No kids hanging out in the corner with Nintento DSs, just going after wood with a saw.  This idea of repairing what we typically would throw out, and buidling more of what we need is definitely a new kind of green.

What if Earth Day became an anchor event in the Maker Community?  Wouldn’t that be exciting.