Author: Pieter-Jan Plaisier
I didn’t know what a Hackerspace is. Based on the the name, I figured it’s would be a bunch of young boys accessing secure information. But after spending a couple of hours at the Taipei Hackerspace, I have learned it is a place much like the overclocking community. Full of passion for technology and geeky stuff in general.
Together with my brand new colleague Timothée (Xyala) and his lovely girlfriend Adeline (who patiently endured all of our geekiness), I went to check out the open day at the hackerspace. The hacker’s place is a rooftop apartment in the center of Taipei, near the main station. The old city center, in case you’re wondering. There is no heating, no warm water, and hardly any place to cook. It almost solely serves the purpose of Hackerspace. Well, not almost. Fully.
In the rather large apartment, there is a bit of everything scattered around. There is hardware, soldering stations, notebooks, a wall plastered with crayon and ideas, a bit of electrical components, and more. There was also a bottle of wine (which I didn’t try). But first and foremost, there are people. Men mostly (of course), but a couple of women/girlfriends as well. Each of the attendees share a similar interest: geeky stuff. The one’s more into electrical engineering, while the other might be more into software. Tim and I are obviously more into hardware. All in all, a good mix of a bit of everything.
But why did we go to the Hackerspace? Because we have a project.
It is not very difficult to describe the project, or explain. It’s all about overclocking mobile devices. But, actually, it is about more than that. Everyone at HWBOT knows that there are plenty of mobile devices which can be overclocked. There are plenty of benchmarks too (some more secure than others). There is plenty of information out there to really overclock the hardware. But no one is doing it. I have yet to see the first real attempt at setting the ARM 3DMark record. Or the highest ARM CPU-Z validation. There is no competition.
Internally, we have had countless discussions debating why no one is pushing the mobile devices (or its technology). There is a plethora of reasons, each one more convincing than the other. But in the end, the same rules apply to mobile as to desktop. The benchmark is meaningless, and overclocking practically not relevant. Then how come there are 40% more overclockers in 2013 than in 2012? It’s simple: we overclock mainly because we enjoy it. Not because of the practical relevance, and definitely not for the greater good of improving hardware so companies can sell more.
In the Taipei Hackerspace, we try to find talented developers to help us kick-start the overclocking eco-system for mobile devices/architectures. Why? Because it’s important. Below I embedded the PowerPoint presentation we used to explain our project to people who are (let’s be honest) very unfamiliar with the overclocking scene.
The idea is simple. As a community, overclockers have been able to force hardware manufacturers to care about the product quality. Through overclocking – how irrelevant the benchmark scores may be – and the competitive nature of the overclockers, we motivated marketing teams primarily, and engineering teams secondarily, to look at how to improve the design of their product. The companies wanted not only to prevent the power users from spreading the word on poor design, but also to win the race to feature in the world record system. The result we know: better bios, better hardware, more tuning, and better design. A win for everyone!
This eco-system does not exist for mobile devices. There are tons of applications for mobile architectures outside the space of smartphones and tablets to be uncovered. We cannot let poor hardware design stop us. Let’s kick-start the eco-system! The proposed trajectory is as follows. First we introduce the competitive spirit through a benchmark application. The open-source Android version of HWBOT Prime seems to be a good start. The hope is that through rankings and leader boards, developers get interested. Who can build the fastest ROM? Who can build the most overclockable kernel? We hope that in the Hackerspace we can find a couple of people who can help work on a specific device project. For us, it will be one of the Hardkernel Odroid devices. Mainly because we have a bunch of them, and they are easy/easier to work with that smartphones or tablets. Especially when it comes to experimenting with different types of cooling.
In any case, the first experience with the Hackerspace was very positive. We hope to attend many more meetings, and perhaps even inspire some people to join our project. The HWBOT Prime code is open-source, so if you are interested in dev’ing for this project, feel free to join!
‘Till the next time!
(ps: sorry, no pictures – forgot to take my camera!)