Some time ago, the CEO of Espressif, makers of the lowest cost WIFI-enabled processor on the planet and a chip I’ve blogged about frequently in here, invited me over to MIT at Boston to the FAB11 conference with them. As it turns out this was a rather small affair featuring things like 3D printers and other fabrication equipment.
However the main point was to run a series of workshops on the MIT campus about the ESP8266 and so along with me were employees of Espressif including Jeroen Domburg (ES_-HTTPD) and also an independent like me, Ivan Grokhotkov (Esp8266/Arduino).
We arrived on Sunday in sunny Boston and of course the first thing that happened was that Iberia Airlines lost my large case complete with samples, laptop+presentation, clothing, pills, flashy LED ring I had such a hard time getting from China thanks mainly to UPS.
Just before arrival I’d received a note to say that due to flooding, my single room accommodation was to be “shared” – with someone I’d never met before. Ok, I’d emailed Jeroen before but I did stress to the staff at the hostel (or as I now call it, Stalag) that I really would like my own room – after all I hardly class as a student. I arrived and despite protests, no change – the place is run by mainly apathetic students or so it seemed to me. Now as it happens, Jeroen and I get on just fine and there was not a problem – but if this is typical of how they treat students – you can keep Boston hospitality – not even remotely acceptable. I would not put my cat in the room they gave us, essentially a rectangular concrete prison sell with 2 beds, Ikea wardrobes and 2 simple desks.
However, Jeroen turned up later than me on Sunday– near midnight and as technical people often do, the moment he walked through the door we started chatting about technology and I think we finally gave up around 1am.
We got along just fine.
So first thing Monday I went off and bought a load of clothes. The Americans invented the term “convenience store” but I think they only meant that to apply if you have a car. Walking and taking the bus is not at all funny in the heat and so it was I arrived at the mall mid-morning to find the old American staples – CVS, Walgreens, Seers, J C Pennys etc..
I have to say for a country with some pretty large people I had difficulty getting clothes my size (at least with any choice) but finally came away at lunchtime armed to the teeth with new gear. As for Pennys – they don’t even sell plugs! Give me B&Q or Brico Depot.
I’m not sure what I was expecting at the venue, certainly organisation was high up there somewhere but inside MIT campus, 30 minutes before our presentation, no laptops – eventually they turned up in 2 black boxes, half of the laptops with the wrong power supplies rendering them useless.
As it happens it was not a full house and so we managed just nicely – talking about ESP8266, MQTT, Node-Red and finally a little about ESP-Arduino to an enthusiastic audience.
Of course in each of the three versions of the workshops we improved and I have to say that by and large they went down very well. Clearly the organisers had done little to help promote us because I know the level of interest I get when I talk about ESP8266 and I was expecting a full house every time – still – all good fun.
Part way through the trip and in the middle of a heat wave, the heavens opened up and threw out some pretty amazing hailstones! I mean MONSTERS.
Myself, Jeroem Domburg and Ivan Grokhotkov spent much of our time when not investigating the city, in room E25-117 at MIT giving presentations and practical workshops to an enthusiastic audience – in the main with great weather, to boot. We demonstrated a NETIO page which I put together talking directly to a servo running under ESP8266-Arduino which Ivan put together. I’ve documented this elsewhere here in at tech.scargill.net. We also discussed MQTT communications and more including my favourite topic – Node-Red.
We went out at night – the first walk was rather too far for my airplane-equipped feet and I’ve been hobbling since. Amazingly despite having a medical dispensary within MIT itself and a near by Co-op (or as the lady kept insisting COOP as in soup – I didn’t like to tell her the name is made from two words) – no foot fixing kit, so being the inventive type I went off and bought a box of cork tiles and a pair of scissors – and DIY fixed the foot which is going to need some tender care and a pin when I get back to Spain.
Just as we were finishing off, I received my case at long last, I should say thanks to Iberia but frankly I think they have shown themselves to be a bunch of complete tossers. Not only did they give me someone else’s reference number which confused the issue but the fact that I had important medicine in the case didn’t seem to phase them even slightly.
Had I fallen ill while away things would be very different now – as it is, lets see how promptly they cough up for the clothing and toiletries! They’ve offered 50 Euros per day – assuming I guess that everyone goes off and buys t-shirts - in reality I needed decent shirts, trousers, underwear and toiletries so I can see a battle coming on featuring their social media.
The end result of all of this however is enlightenment and a pretty good time generally. I’ve met some great people and learned some new stuff. I’m now back in Spain with new ideas, some new thoughts on China having spoken at length to the Chinese guys here – and generally feeling that this was another worthwhile adventure.
I can’ wait to get back into the nice cool lake in Spain (I’ll never complain about cold water again) – heat can be a great thing but in a city built for commerce and not comfort in heat, give me the wilderness any time. Sadly right now in Andalusia it’s a bit foggy!
I’ve written a blog on on the work Ivan has done with ESP8266-Arduino which I have to say is pretty good – in our talk we drove a servo from a NETIO Android App – it is so easy it’s like falling off a log. For now, I’ll leave you with some photographs. My thanks to Espressif and to Swee-An for looking after me and providing thought-provoking conversation.