HELP! Call for Co-Creation (Bay Area)

Hey all,

Please see this as an open and serious invitation, in a timely hour, to co-create The Omni (aka Omni Oakland Collective, Omni Commons, OMNI, etc):

YOU have the opportunity (right now) to not merely participate in, but co-create a new commons in Oakland. In fact, it cannot be formed without you—this is an all-hands-on-deck moment.

Sudo Room, the creative community and hackerspace of my membership, is only one part of the Omni Collective. Even as broad as sudo room's scope (you can hack anything—language, food, culture, bureaucracy, software, hardware, wetware, institutions, your friends, your nose!), there are yet other interest groups that have open calls as well.

Over the years I have been touched by the works, presences, stories, experiences, and exchanges of so many people in the bay area. I am asking you now to be inclined to join us, either in person or at least in essence.

Consider this as an opportunity to celebrate the larger (even global) network of existent and emerging communities and physical spaces (places) who and which value, at heart, the interests of people and not vacuous things like profit through exploitation.

We need you now.

You can join through member collectives that are open:
Through our freshly empowered Omni Collective working groups:
Or as a new member collective:

Contact me directly in order to have support to become involved.

Love and solidarity,

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Step Beyond Pretense for a Moment

The first thing you must do, no alternative, is to remember (not merely believe, but to recall something utterly meaningful, which rests deep within your thoughts and experiences), you must remember that:

the world is not as it may seem

You learned this lesson very young, making assumptions about the world that quickly worked themselves out of utility, out of fashion, out of mind.

Please, soak in this notion, in the impossibility of total understanding, seeing, knowing.

How easy is it to forget that at any given moment, perhaps, someone is pulling the wool over your eyes? How easy is it to accept (without justification) that the world as we know it is the “only way it can be”? We are strongly biased. We assume the current state of affairs offers the only possibility for life, society, everything. We are all susceptible to such thinking, but we know well the feeling of emptiness it brings.

We know the “truth” is that each of us, individually, live restricted and exploited lives; lives disrupted in both practical and psychological senses. We often deny ourselves and each other the liberty of even imagining new aspects of the world, those things yet to be seen. We spend much time repeating viscious cycles and promoting the status quo or dominant culture, at times in that “whatever's easiest” mentality.

Although it is practically impossible to predict the future, we still live our day-to-day lives as though most of everything exists somewhere above our heads, pre-determined, immutable, out of our control, as though there is some natural order. What a dangerous, false thought.

It is integral to set ourselves free, one by one, to accept there is no singular truth, and certainly no “correct” universe. Nor is the universe immutable—stuck in its current state, without alternatives.

Our reality is multiplicitous and duplicitous. Our reality consists of many, overlapping worlds. And these worlds are not always truthful. We continuously construct our own memories, knowledge, life. Through social dimensions we constitute shared realities—sometimes (tragically) through domination, yet other times through consent, or something in between.

People, on the whole, are more creative than we often give credit; just imagine what creative potential we deny or ignore! Instead, we have the ability to accept or support one another in our creativity.

It is time to embrace, celebrate this basic understanding of truth and the world. From it so much flows, and so interesting life then becomes.

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Bring Your OS With You

I support and celebrate operating systems based on Linux, well, because there are not many better options. ;) On the other hand, I also believe that community-supported tools and systems are worth our participation and involvement, because for what we all put in, we each, and collectively, get much more out. Simple as that.

Right now I run CrunchBang, a snappy, simplified, developer-conscious flavor of Debian, notably running the OpenBox window manager rather than something heftier like GNOME.

Since installing CrunchBang, I have come to appreciate its simplicity so much that I have wanted to continue using it, with all of my alterations, even as I upgrade my laptop. In this post, I outline a strategy to simplify management of your Linux system based on my experience so far with my operating system.

Bring your OS with you

  1. Pick an operating system. (For me at the moment, it's CrunchBang)
    1. Download an .iso (image) file
    2. Use unetbootin or dd (details) to copy the image to a usb drive
      1. For using dd, find out the device names of your disks with dmesg | grep sd, which allows you to see details about drives and when they are connected.
      2. Pick the right locations and fire [WARNING, MAY DESTROY STUFF]:
        dd if=/home/username/downloads/linux-foo-bar-0.1.iso of=/dev/sdBBB
      3. Once finished, you can reboot, select the flash drive as the boot disk (usually change some settings in BIOS and then use some key like F12 to select boot device from a list)
      4. Follow your OS's installation instructions.
  2. Exact backup to empty drive with dd
    1. Boot from a live OS (live disk, like CD or usb drive with linux on it)
    2. Again, find the correct device names of disks first
    3. This time copy from your computer's disk instead of an image to some backup file [WARNING, MAY DESTROY STUFF]:
      dd if=/dev/sdAAA of=/dev/sdBBB
    4. To recover a borked system, you can always copy in the other direction to restore [WARNING, MAY DESTROY STUFF]:
      dd if=/dev/sdBBB of=/dev/sdAAA
  3. Backup with horcrux on top of duplicity (details)
    1. This is for more magic, like multiple restoration points, partial backups, and most importantly, backing up to multiple locations in case of multiple failures
    2. horcrux is pretty much a bash script for duplicity, so read it and man duplicity!
  4. Store special files with tomb (details)
    1. A fun and tiny way to bury bits on your disk, excellent alternative to full-disk encryption schemes
  5. Migrate to new devices with dd and lvm
    1. When it's time to upgrade or replace your computer, you can carry everything with you. There is only one important question:
      1. Is the destination hard drive bigger or smaller than my current one?
        1. Either way you will have to resize the physical volume and logical volumes in question, but if the destination drive is bigger, than you can copy now and resize later ;)
          1. Resizing un-encrypted partitions can be as easy as running gparted, parted, fdisk, or simply with lvm commands
        2. However, encrypted partitions are not as easy to manage. See notes below for resizing encrypted partitions:

Pro-tip: Check the progress of dd with sudo kill -USR1 `pidof dd`

Enlarging LUKS Encryption over LVM

These days, it‘s easy to implement full-disk encryption at the time of your operating system’s installation. Further, it's usually recommended to use LVM to manage your disks, even on a personal computer. lvm creates a layer of abstraction on top of typical partitions, which can make some forms of disk management much easier or less risky. If you installed a recent distribution of linux based on Debian, and installed fill-disk encryption it is likely you are using LUKS over LVM.

For debian-based systems, this guide called Resize Encrypted Partitions should be close to what you need, with some noteworthy updates:

  1. Step 1. When creating a new partition “next to and to the left of (after) your crypt”, don't let this language confuse you. You want the encrypted partition to have a new partition immediately following it so that you may use fdisk to overwrite this new partition by expanding the encrypted partition over the new partition. This should help make more sense of the situation. It's likely that you have /dev/sda1 with /boot on it and /dev/sda2 as an extended partition that contains your encrypted partition (something like /dev/sda5 maybe, depending on how many partitions you made at installation and later with LVM). This is why it is likely that creating another Linux partition inside of the /dev/sda2 extended partition would likely use the name /dev/sda6 as the instructions note. If you view this in gparted you would see /dev/sda2 wrapped around the encrypted /dev/sda5 as well as around the following new partition /dev/sda6, ending the wrapper.
  2. Step 2. Don't bother with /dev/urandom it takes forever, just use /dev/zero or if you prefer, you can use shred instead of dd with the --iterations flag as such: sudo shred --iterations=1 /dev/sda6
  3. Step 3. This is a very confusing reference. You are instructed to use fdisk in the same process as it is used for shrinking partitions in the instructions preceeding these (above). However, there are superfluous warnings, commands, and instructions that make it difficult to implement here. The important concept to note, in my opinion, is simply that you are using fdisk to expand your encrypted partition over the new, adjacent partition. This means you should use fdisk /dev/sda to d delete partitions 6, 5 and 2, then n re-create them as partitions 2 (e expanded) and 5 (l logical) such that (by default) /dev/sda5 expands over the blocks previously partitioned for /dev/sda6. Check with p and when you are satisfied, w write to the disk.
  4. After Step 8. If you are troubleshooting the process, to deactivate your LVM, use sudo vgchange -an
  5. Step 11. Repeat as necessary for each logical volume you wish to resize (e.g. root, swap, and home)
  6. Step 12. You won't be able to resize the filesystem for swap. If you do resize a swap volume, when you reboot and complete the resizing successfully, simply use mkswap appropriately such as:
    sudo swapoff
    sudo mkswap /dev/crypt1/swap_1
    sudo swapon

The Future

Maybe in the future I will switch to ArchLinux to avoid major upgrade headaches, get on board with the new future-of-linux features, and benefit from a great community with lots of documentation..

In fact, I'm downloading Arch right now… ;)

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One Rule to Guide Them All

“Food must be shared.” — Kesselberg (Community)

“Be excellent to each other.” — Noisebridge (Hackerspace)

“Don't be evil.” — Google (Company)

How do we socially organize? How do we share our most basic principles, morals, values? What does it mean when we simplify, when we search for or even implement essentialized notions as the baseline for a community's standards?

Three examples have come to mind of late and instigate these questions for me. I do not have the answers, but it creates an alluring pursuit.

Kesselberg (Berlin)

First, Kesselberg is an unrestricted, autonomous, intentional community outside of Berlin, Germany. The community has quite a strong core who have been living in their discrete location for some time. On the other hand, the place is truly open to anyone who wants to come there, and thus some people come who are less intentional about their stay with respect to the others, but are allowed nonetheless. A dynamic exists between these groups, and I cannot say where it stands at the moment, though I am attempting to investige further. Ultimately, there is only one rule. If you have food, you need to share it. This is a clever concept, focusing on commoning a basic human need and resource, as well as identifying a mode for social exchange around the hearth, bowl, hand, fire, etc. Its implications prove interesting at the very least.

Noisebridge (San Francisco)

Another community, Noisebridge, in the mission district of San Francisco, also has just one rule. Quoting Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Reeves plays a Southern Californian teenager who travels in time in order to learn history, finish his final project for his history class, and graduate from high school. If he fails, in the future, he won't later co-create a peaceful society guided by the music and philosophy of his excellent rock-and-roll band.

Travelling to this future society, Reeve's character learns from their leaders that his future self has taught the planet about world peace. He is prompted to share some wisdom. He takes a moment, gets all poetic on us, and states, “Be excellent to each other.” Nothing more appropriate for culture-jamming hackers to adopt as their basic and altruistic motto for moral guidance.

However, “Be excellent to each other” is not perfect. In the Noisebridge community, there has been much ambiguity around this notion and phrasing. Further, to emphasize being excellent has suggested to some that therefore some attitude, behaviors, and practices are “un-excellent” and should therefore be identified, prevented, or otherwise opposed in the spirit of being “excellent” instead. On the other hand, the hacker community has memetically spread this rule around the world where it has a place and application in many other communities. It is certainly imperfect, but it has legs, which is worth a ponder…


Finally, there is one dangerously simplistic phrase, for which there is certainly ample debate already. Google‘s “Don’t be evil” has the opposite problem as being “excellent” has for Noisebridge. Why state this principle in the negative? Why should being “evil” be avoided? We shouldn't we “be good” or some similar positive equivalent? In some way, we see the practice of this essential concept at work as Google grows in its wealth and power. Will Google become evil? Is Google evil in some ways already? What is evil? What are the good things that Google does? Can they be compared to the evil, or is evil absolute and represent a fundamental failure?

In sum…

To me, I am most impressed by Kesselberg‘s statement because (unlike the other two above), it has a clear but unviable opposite. To not share one’s food is unambiguous. In some way keeping, food to one‘s self (in most cases) would lean toward self-interest and away from commons-building. If the priority of the community is to share one’s food if one has food, then greater than self-evidence, this community has a reasonable request for which the opposite can be easily understood, as it is fairly undebatable (at least in construction). I think this may be an indicator of what can make a very valuable basis of a moral system.

Additionally, Kesselberg‘s food sharing notion converges on one of a person’s most basic needs, functions, and elements of day-to-day life. The sharing of food creates the possibility and potential for further interaction and engagement. It is such sharing that brings people together, where other aspects of culture may emerge and flourish. Time to listen, to understand, to express, be creative, to relax, and to grow, bonding with others.

In Math…

In the practice of mathematics, an informal (non-binding) principle is the concept of elegance. Simply put, elegance emphasizes (even prioritizes) simplicity. If something can be said as one shorter statement, rather than two, then do it! It's of course not universal, and there are lots of counter examples, as you might imagine. Further, elegance may very well be anthropocentric; do the context and constraints of being a human predispose or bias us away from complexity in our models? I believe this certainly can be the case, and therefore we should be aware of such bias.

From a logical stand-point, non-trivial but minimal systems that demonstrate elegance can be illustrative, powerful (theoretically), and even practical. For instance, consider in propositional logic, the functionally complete formal system constructed from a single operator: Nand or “not and”. This system allows the construction of all the commonly sensical equivalents of logic (‘and’, ‘or’, ‘implies’, ‘not’, etc) in a more abstract way (complex in length, simple in basis). On top of it all, logical Nand is the operation implemented in the Nand gate, the tool by which computational machines may function!

These simple rules or statements used by the communities listed above make me think about such mathematical elegance, in a heuristical and poetic sense.


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Villagecraft Update and New Workshop on Starting A Hackerspace

Just met up with Hayley from at sudo room. Got some updates about the progress of their project, including some exciting patterns from their user base and general solidarity across creative/learning community life!

Zeroth, they're hosting a Dinner Party this Thursday June 12th at 6pm, register on villagecraft itself to join.

First, they're going open source, which means they'll finally be publishing their source code online, opening up the prospect of review, contribution, and creativity with the very platform that runs the villagecraft website. They support a community of hosts and attendees sharing knowledge at workshop-style events in the east bay area. This is certainly a project sudoers will be interested in examining more closely.

Second, they have a plan ;). Meaning, they've got a list of features and a list of bugs that they plan to get through to truly improve the villagecraft experience. Hayley spends a lot of time in the field, doing manual coordination, listening, and problem-solving. The results of her lessons she shares back to the rest of the team, most of whom write the bulk of the villagecraft software.

Third, and finally, the future is uncertain! New folks are getting on board to write software, and the organic user community is growing in interesting and strange ways (more on that below). There are open questions, big opportunities, and a clear need to grow wider (and not necessarily spend too much time going so deep). Hayley reached out on this particular accord, hoping to include more participation from hackerspace, techie, hardware/software/wetware communities. It seems to me the opportunity to cross sudo room‘s events and villagecraft’s community platform is certainly real, and very exciting.

As for these user patterns. Two things Hayley shared are:
1. The villagecraft user base is growing inter-connected as an organic community.
2. Some of their users take several workshops across domains, rather than focus on individual domains.

These patterns seem to imply that the time to widen and grow the community is nigh. Further, the intuitive notion that users will pursue learning experiences based on the domain-specificity of their interests may very well be untrue thusfar!

Lastly, Hayley, Jeremy, and I shared some of our interests and experiences working in creative communities, using consensus, using safe space, positioning do-ocracy over bureaucracy, celebrating good-faith collaboration, and confronting bad-faith participants. As a result of our discussion, looks like I'll be hosting a workshop on Starting a Hackerspace, based on the sudo room experience, conversations with folks starting hackerspaces locally as well as remotely, and my recent post on an off-the-cuff protocol: 8 steps to start a hackerspace. Additionally, Jeremy will be hosting one on Consensus Process, which we all agreed is much needed and even long-overdue.

Very exciting ;).

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