AdHoc Over (and I mean *over*)

My first Ad-Hoc/MacHack Conference is now over. After 4 days and 4 nights of sessions, papers, hilarious talks, tons of soda & pizza (queue standard geek jokes here), and lots and lots of programming they closed the 20th Annual AdHoc/MacHack conference.

Andy building a mac robotI got a little over involved in several hack (showcase) projects and so was actually programming during the presentations. That meant that I didn't actually get to see a bunch of the hack presentations, which was very sad.

I did, however, finish 2 hacks very successfully and helped several others on their projects.


The first project was done by a challenge by Andy Ihnatko stating that when he first wrote a book on Tiger, he thought the dashboard was great. However, he wishes he could retract it because, in his opinion, it's a neat toy but not really useful. He would like to see the computer intelligently display information to users, even when they may not be actively using the computer - such as from across the room or at a glance.

Well, I responded by developing DashSaver It is a Mac OS X screen saver that activates the dashboard and hides the desktop. It acts and works like a normal screensaver, and so doesn't require any additional underlying process or overhead on the computer. When you return to your computer, just wiggle the mouse and the desktop is available and you are at the dashboard. I chose to lave the user at the dashboard so they could 'click' on items that appeared on the dashboard.

I developed this early Friday morning and used it on the my iBook and G5 for the rest of the day and found it incredibly useful. When I wasn't using my computer, or came back to it after being gone, the dashboard had useful information like weather, news, mail, stocks, and whatever other widgets you find useful. I now use the dashboard rather than just play with it.

Well, the "jury" (Andy Ihnatko and Scott Kanaster from Google) agreed and awarded me the Jury Prize for most useful hack (which is actually kind of a bad mark - the hacks weren't supposed to be useful). It netted me a very slick, but very inoperative (like my hack should have been) Newton pad. I've never had a Newton or even really seen one up close. But now I'm intrigued - it just fits so well in the hand.

bTop Robot

bTopRobotThe other project I worked on was developing a mobile robot with a MacMini onboard an iSight camera, and a new hardware interface board developed by Perfectly Scientific that is targeted to the Apple platform. The robot could be either driven via a mouse from an wireless laptop (all over wifi) or it would track bright green objects. To demonstrate, we wrapped green tape around one of the devs legs and as he walked around the robot followed him. It worked out incredibly well (I was very suprised myself). This got us 2nd 3rd prize overall in the public voting.

Overall it was a great conference. I had a ton of fun and met a bunch of people. I really want to go to more of these small, personable conferences where I can learn alot. I still stood out with my iBook, but only because everyone else had a powerbook. Mike Cohen has put up some pictures of AdHoc 2005.

But alas, due to falling attendance and expenses, it was announced that this had been the last AdHoc/MacHack. I sincerely hope that we can pull something else together as many people pointed out there was nothing else like this conference. I'll do whatever I can to help out.

Check out the TidBITS #790 for Adam Engst's review of AdHoc and mention of yours truly.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.