Bert JW Regeer (畢傑龍)

Maker Faire: San Mateo Fairgrounds

I just got back from Maker Faire in San Mateo, California. I went with a whole group of students, in the UAT van and drove from Phoenix to San Francisco in 14 hours. 10 of us, packed into a tight space for 14 hours, it was a blast. Most of us slept on the way there, trying to catch up on the sleep we had not had because of finals week. When we finally got to San Mateo we went to our hotel, a dump, to say the least. The Hillsdale Inn sucks. We got there and the lady at the registration had clearly been drinking, and kept walking away from the front desk to the bar. At the same time our leader LostboY (Ryan) was trying to get things sorted, as the lady said we had not paid for the rooms yet, when clearly she had the credit card data on file, AND the credit card showed that it had been charged. She tried to run the card again, but since it was a duplicate charge, american express denied the charge. Eventually she gave us the keys after recording all of the people who would stay in the Hotel rooms ID's.

We unpack the van, and get ourselves situated. We locate a restaurant and head out to go eat dinner. We end up failing to follow the GPS, and we end up at a Denny's, not everyone was too happy, but at least it was food. Sarah one of my room mates who is also on the trip ends up getting sick. We drive back to the Hotel so she can go to bed, as we all have to be up early in the morning to get to the Faire in time. When we get back to the Hotel we find that they have locked us out of the rooms, our stuff is still inside. Ryan goes to the front desk and calmly asks them to unlock the rooms, and asks why they were locked in the first place. At this point someone who was at the bar comes out, and wants to start a fight with Ryan. It is at this point that the front desk lady gives us a few minutes to grab our stuff and get the hell out of there. She is swearing, and at this time heavily intoxicated. We quickly grab our stuff, and throw it all back into the van. At this point the lady threatens to call the police, so we preempt her, and do exactly that. We end up waiting outside in the cold of the night at 0130 in the morning until the San Mateo police arrive so that we could tell them what happened, and to be able to double check both rooms to make sure we did not leave anything behind, and also get the names and numbers of the people involved. Ryan decides to not press charges.

We start looking for new Hotels almost immediately, using the GPS that Ryan brought with him, we find a Best Western right across the highway, and they have two rooms available. So after wrapping up the business with the police, we head over there. We walk in, the lady is extremely nice, gives us our cards to the rooms, and we finally are able to get to a nice hotel room. No identification required, no threats, no problems what so ever. She even gives us a discount when we tell her our horror story about what we just went through. It was a nice change from what had happened.

We finally got situated in our hotel rooms by 0230 in the morning, and we did not fall asleep until 0300 or later. Ryan and I got up at 0600 in the morning, took a shower and left for Maker Faire at around 0700 to help Jon and John from EFX Tek set up their booth (Ryan is part of their company). Ryan had told me much about the two of them, and it was awesome to finally get to meet them in person. They exceeded the expectations that Ryan had set by just talking about them. They are extremely awesome and knowledgeable guys, who have amazing pasts, and really interesting hobbies. They have one of the most awesome booth designs I have ever seen. It came out of two large shipping crates, was made out of solid wood and was panelling that all fit together in an organised fashion. This was a well thought out and perfectly engineered booth.

We finished setting up at around 0930 in the morning. I had been running on 3 hours of sleep, and I was not yet feeling tired at all. Maker Faire just opened for the day, and people are slowly starting to trickle in, as I walk around I already see some very amazing projects in motion, or being worked on. At around 1000 or so the others finally head over to the Faire from the hotel. It is at this time that I start looking at things. The amazing projects people have worked on to show case. Everywhere I go with Ryan people recognise him, or he recognises someone. There are even several people from Defcon there to check things out and they all come over and greet Ryan, mostly to ask him about his Mystery Challenge. What was most interesting is that people were protesting fossil fuels by burning fossil fuels. Beautiful irony, damn hippies. I did get to meet Johnny Lee of Wiimote hacking fame, with the tracking of the pens using the infrared camera in the Wiimotes. Sean and I had worked on replicating one of his many set ups using very simple parts, just to see if we could and it was really cool to meet the person who started it all. Day 1 for the rest was rather uneventful, mostly because I was getting way to tired to enjoy walking around. My feet really hurt, mainly because I had been standing all day, and with very little sleep. At night Abney Park would be playing, I ended up not going to their show mainly because I was too tired and I really did not want to be on my feet any longer. We went out to TGIF for dinner, and then I went straight back to the Hotel. I don't remember much of the rest of the night, other than that I fell asleep!

The next day we all woke up at around 1000 or so, we went out to breakfast at Denny's, had a big breakfast and then headed out to Maker Faire at around 0100 or so, we go there and the parking lot was full, but we all had special badges we had acquired, so we talked our way past the security guard. And guess who was waiting to get in, but the security guard not knowing who he was would not let him in. Adam Savage from MythBusters. The guard did not know who he was and would not let him in, and he needed to be on stage in the next 20 minutes to give a presentation. Eventually Ryan talked the security guard into letting Adam and his wife and kids into the parking lot, at the same time handing over his business card. We park the van and start walking in when we notice that Adam has parked and has the badge he requires, so we let him know what gate he should use to enter, and when Ryan mentions he has a bunch of his students with him, Adam tips his hat in our direction. We all nod, in return as an acknowledgement. Adam's presentation was about his Maltese Falcon and the story behind how he got started making things, building models and everything along those lines. His work has been featured in many movies, including Star Wars, AI, and many others. It is really cool to see some of the work he has done, and how he obsesses over the smallest details. Afterwards Ryan and I head over to tech shop to get our laptops laser etched. He has his Asus eeePC with him, and I have my MacBook Pro. At first I am hesitant to get it engraved, but when the engraver reassures me that Apple never gave him problems over his engraved iPhone or engraved MacBook Pro I go ahead and do it. My MacBook Pro has now been engraved with my nickname (X-Istence) and the following short program:

#include <stdio.h>

int main() { printf("%c", 0x58);

return 0;


Re-sale value be damned, this looks fantastic on my laptop. It took off such a small tiny miniscule layer that you are unable to feel it at all when you run your hands across it. If Apple gives me any crap for it, I will just slap some stickers over top of it, as I had stickers on my laptop the last time, and they were not a problem at all. There was another cool design I could have etched instead, but I did not feel that it spoke to me, it did not feel personal enough, hence the small program and my nickname. It makes my laptop mine. At this point it is already 1740 and the Maker Faire is starting to shut down. They want everyone that is not a "Maker" out of the Fairgrounds as soon as 1800 so that they can start packing up and cleaning the place up. We students all end up standing at the EFX Tek booth listening to John talk about his earlier days working for several major companies, and the state of credit card security, and the security of credit card devices. I wish we could have spent more time with both John and Jon since they both have very different and interesting backgrounds. For example, John is certified to nuclear soldering standards. What this means is that he knows the procedures and steps to solder a joint in such a way that it will be guaranteed good for the next 10 years as the human body can only withstand so much radiation. So much knowledge, way too little time.

Hopefully they will be able to make it out to UAT for Tech Forum to talk about their experiences. It is a Sunday and being the last day we all head out to Maccaroni Grill for dinner. Jon goes with us, unfortunately John had to leave. Dinner with a bunch of college students is always fun, so there are jokes, there is talking, laughing. It is an all around good time. We end up going back to the hotel and falling asleep. Ryan and I both wake up at around 0800 in the morning, we start getting ready, packing things back up into suitcases, taking showers and going for the free continental breakfast Best Western serves. We get everyone else up, so that we can leave to head home. We all climb into the van and head home at 1015. Just over 12 hours later, we get to UAT at 2250. On the trip back home many of us are not feeling too great, mainly because of the amount of fast food we have been eating on the trip, combined with the bad road conditions and the amount of sleep we did not get. We get home without any issues what so ever though.

The weekend was awesome. I really enjoyed myself and would like to thank Ryan for driving there, and back. I am surprised he is still sane after that trip. I would like to thank UAT for paying for the hotel rooms, the gas, and the tickets into Maker Faire. I am glad that I did go after all, at first I was not really sure if I wanted to go since I am not into most of what was shown. However the people I met, the cool things I saw, have planted a few seeds here and there as to what I could do, and who knows what the future holds, maybe someday I will be standing at Maker Faire showing off my cool projects.