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Python Newbie Night vs. Recursion

by on Feb.22, 2009, under Python Newbies

During last week’s python class we got to the part in our wonderful textbook where the concept of recursion is introduced.  My friend Susan posted a witty line to my facebook feed regarding the teaching of recursion:

I normally teach recursion by checking to see whether they understand recursion, and if not, teaching recursion.

Within the class we have a variety of levels of experience with programming in general, and recursion in particular.  I’m curious to hear peoples’ favourite recursion teaching tools, examples, or other witticisms.  What’s your favourite programming problem to solve recursively?


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RFID-proof duct tape wallet making

by on Nov.26, 2008, under Uncategorized

Posting this well in advance so that people show up!

Tuesday Dec. 9th I’ll be making duct tape wallets and would love for others to participate too!  I’ll have some tape available, and instructions, but please bring tape too if you want to make your own.

I’ll have enough heavy duty tin foil for a zillion wallets, so don’t worry about that.

It’s on our google calendar, of course:


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Python Newbie Night

by on Nov.12, 2008, under Announcements, Events

For the past couple of weeks a few of us have been meeting up at the lab to learn some Python.  Some of us are complete beginners, while some of us have been programming profesionally for years.  It makes for an interesting evening and we’re been learning lots.

We’re basing the sessions on the book Python for Software Design: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, which is available for free online.  We’ve been impressed so far with the book’s clarity and the quality of the example code it comes with.

After a few successful sessions, we’ve decided to make this a more regular / official meeting at the lab.  It’ll be every Thursday at 7PM until around 9, though we have gone later in the past, and some of us show up earlier as well.  Feel free to drop in our IRC channel (#hacklabto on freenode) if you want to see if anyone’s already at the lab.  For this Thursday if you feel like catching up before you come out, we’re at chapter 4; don’t worry, though, we’ll be able to get you caught up if you’re a total beginner :)


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Unpatched Tuesdays

by on Nov.02, 2008, under Events, Unpatched Tuesdays

Are you curious about the space and want to come check it out, but fear that you won’t know anyone or have anything to do?  Are you afraid of showing up in Kensington and knocking on the door only to find it locked?

Fear not!  Unpatched Tuesdays are just the thing for you.

Every Tuesday from 6(ish) to late in the evening we have an “open lab” night.  It has varied between a mostly social event and a productive work party depending on what people are up to, but the key thing about it is that the door is open to all comers.  Show up with a Linux or BSD question, an interesting piece of hardware, a technical problem, or your new widget that you want to show off.  The Tuesday night crowd is a resourceful and friendly bunch, and it’s always great to see some new faces.

You’re also welcome to show up empty-handed, but we might put you to work!  There are a bunch of ongoing hardware and infrastructure projects at the lab, so expect to be assigned a bug on our bugtracker :)

The other important thing to note is that you don’t need to be a 5up3r 31337 hax0r to come out on Tuesdays.  Just be friendly and interested and you’re totally welcome.  There’s no minimum height, age, or skill level required to participate.

There are also other events going on at the lab.  Go Night on Mondays, and irregularly scheduled classes which all get posted on the calendar and announced on our pretty low-traffic mailing list.  We usually post about them on the blag too, so subscribe to any of those to keep up to date.


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On Incorporating a Hacker Space

by on Sep.17, 2008, under Running a Hacker Space

There are a ton of things to keep straight when starting up a hacker space.  Just look at the design patterns document – so many things they talk about are the initial stages, not the day-to-day running of things.

We spent a lot of time getting things like a net connection, insurance, two-factor door authentication, and a monitored alarm system set up.  But in the end, incorporation was about the most stressful thing to get going, and we’re not through the process yet.

Obligatory not-a-lawyer preface:  I’m not a lawyer, I was simply raised by a pack of them.  I can read forms and websites, but this should in no way constitute legal advice.  Do your own research and consult a good lawyer – it will save you hassle in the long run.  If this post kicks your puppy or causes your hacker space to burst into flames, please complain elsewhere.

Incorporating a non-profit in Ontario isn’t a huge deal, or particularly expensive.  It’s $155 and a 4-page form, plus a corporate name search (NUANS search), which costs around $35.  We expedited ours for $100 to get 7-day service, and it ended up taking 4 business days – way awesome compared to 6 weeks for the normal fee.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has a really excellent guide to incorporating non-profits up on their site.  Read the whole thing.  The form you need to fill out is in the appendix.

The one thing I wish the guide had been clearer on is that for a non-charity non-profit, which is what we are, you don’t need to have your corporate objects approved.  That’s just for charities.  Phew, we don’t have to pretend we’re a club….

But wait, we kinda did.  They didn’t like our name!  HackLab Toronto Inc.  Sounds too for-profit, apparently.  So it’s HackLab Toronto Club Inc.  Which is way too wordy for my tastes, but I really don’t care enough to be concerned.  So yeah, make sure your name sounds non-profitey in a way that is consistent with your corporate objects, which you will learn all about when you read the handbook.

Here’s what we ended up coming up with.  It’s suitably vague-yet-specific, but in retrospect I can see how the person doing the filing thought we should have “club” in our name.  These are the “objects for which the corporation is incorporated” to use the official Ministry lingo:

Hacker Club: The establishment and operation of a social club for individuals interested in computer security, technology, electronics, and related topics for the purpose of:

* providing facilities and equipment for the pleasure and accommodation of members and guests;

* sharing information and knowledge for the mutual benefit of the members;

* organizing technical, educational, and social events;

* promoting awareness of privacy and digital rights issues affecting members and civil society;

and such other complementary purposes not inconsistent with these objects.

For the special provisions, we just left it at the default which comes pre-printed on the form.  You should consult a lawyer to see if that’s what you need to do to.

I got the NUANS search done here, and they took about 18 hours to get it back to me.  Make sure you get a full NUANS, not just a pre-search.  Also, you can do pre-searches for free on the federal NUANS site – just let your session time out if you use up your 8 free ones.

The other board members and I are working on our Bylaws, which for Ontario corporations are not approved by any government agency, just kept internally.  Ontario corporations are kinda great that way.

Tomorrow I’m going by the office to pick up our Letters Patent, and then we’re all set to get a bank account, which is pretty much our last step in becoming all official and stuff. Except registering for PST / GST… but more on that later.


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