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Tour Houston's Texas-Sized Hackerspace (Video 1 of 2)

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the power-tools-make-me-quiver-with-joy dept.

Hardware 57

That things are bigger in Texas is sometimes more than just a cliche. A few weeks ago, on the way to LinuxCon, I stopped by what is certainly the biggest hackerspace that I've ever seen; is it the biggest in the world? Whatever the answer is to that, Houston's TX/RX Labs is not just big — it's busy, and booked. Unlike some spaces we've highlighted here before (like Seattle's Metrix:CreateSpace and Brooklyn's GenSpace), TX/RX Labs has room and year-round sunshine enough to contemplate putting a multi-kilowatt solar array in the backyard. Besides an array of CNC machines, 3-D printers, and both wood- and metal-working equipment, TX/RX has workbenches available for members to rent. (These are serious workspaces, made in-house of poured concrete and welded steel tubing.) Member Steve Cameron showed me around, but TX/RX Labs is so large that we broke the tour into two parts, with the other one set to display next week.

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57 comments

Ninfa's (3, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about 7 months ago | (#45029033)

Hey, that's like two blocks from the best Mexican food in the city, Ninfa's on Navigation. Great location choice!

Re:Ninfa's (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029281)

This is a poor choice for a comment and you should reconsider your decision making paradigm.
advertizing is for billboards and banner-ads.

Re:Ninfa's (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029431)

You should just go suck a dick.

Wait, go suck a bag of dicks.

AC Troll off!

Re:Ninfa's (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029495)

Also, it's about 1/4 mile from a very cool game room / bar with about 100 vintage video games and pinball: Joystix. The anti-advertising AC troll can blow me.

Re:Ninfa's (0)

timothy (36799) | about 7 months ago | (#45029519)

That's good to know! I intend to get back to TX/RX sometime soon, and food recommendations are why the internet exists :) Thanks.

Re:Ninfa's (1)

ZFox (860519) | about 7 months ago | (#45031037)

In my opinion, it has gone a little downhill, since "Mama Ninfa's" death in 2001, but it is still one of my top 3 Tex-Mex restaurants in the city (maybe still #1, but no longer a shoe-in). Also, there are other Ninfa's locations in Houston, but I have always had a much better experience at the original location (even more recently). Ah, I finally see why: "There are still "Ninfa's Mexican Restaurants" in Houston and elsewhere operated by independent owners who previously received licenses to use the name from the Laurenzo family" [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Ninfa's (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 7 months ago | (#45030327)

Yeah Ninfa's [ninfas.com] is great but I prefer the other Laurenzo restaurant El Tiempo [eltiempocantina.com] right down the street. Their Parrillada (Mexican BBQ) is incredible!

I'll have to check out TX/RX Labs next time I'm over there.

Re:Ninfa's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45030449)

Actually El Tiempo is closer and better, I like my food without roaches.

It has the same problem as anything else in Texas (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029155)

It's surrounded by Texas.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (3, Insightful)

firex726 (1188453) | about 7 months ago | (#45029365)

Major cities are actually quite nice, Houston, Dallas, Austin; all nice places to live or visit depending on your interests.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 months ago | (#45030115)

Dallas used to be nice but Deep Ellum is going to crap, Bar of Soap is no longer there, half of the good bars have closed down, bleh.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029899)

It has the same problem as anything else in Texas. It's surrounded by Texas.

So you are a bigot. Thanks for sharing!

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (1)

bored (40072) | about 7 months ago | (#45030579)

Well in a way he is right.

Living in Texas there are a number of things lacking. For, example national parks... Which is true of other parts of the country, but if you live in say, Austin, it takes the better part of 9 hours to get to Big Bend.

The state parts are nice, but putting a couple 1000 acre parks here and there tends to lead to massive overuse, and parks where you don't feel anymore isolated than the greenbelt behind your house.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (2)

firex726 (1188453) | about 7 months ago | (#45032449)

That's more an issue of how large Texas is. Parks, Rivers, Lakes, Campgrounds; we got them, but becuase our cities are so sprawling and spread out, it'll take a while to get to them.

I do agree though that we could help out matters by making more smaller parks, then a few giant ones. Visiting them during the weekend or any holiday is just a waste, since they will be swamped with people, many who will be out watching TV, blasting a radio, or getting drunk and starting fights. Don't like it? Well we have another park literally across the state, and will take all night to drive to, and will have the same issues.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45039793)

Its not just how large the state is, but the proportion of the state that is park/forest land. What you are describing is a problem of people/parks (aka to many people, not enough park land).

See this http://seguingazette.com/opinion/community_columnists/article_2d389008-57f0-11e0-8b15-001cc4c03286.html which talks about why Texas doesn't have any parks. Frankly, I'm not sure that article is completely correct, because the state I moved from nearly doubled its park land in the early 2000's due to a a couple large buyout programs where the state purchased rights to land in rural communities for conservation.

Re:It has the same problem as anything else in Tex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45041519)

We have a huge park is right off of Downtown Houston. It is just a block or two from city hall. Yes, there are a few freeways going over parts of it, but really, it's just west of downtown.

Where I live, there's a park (and a good sized one too) just two blocks away. We also have a ten mile hike and bike trail (connected to two real parks, and one patch of land they call a park) another two miles away. Finally, if you like your parks really big, there's the old battlefield (where Texas won its independence from mexico just on the other side of Houston.

While it is possible to have more parks, Houston doesn't seem to be lacking. There's even a park featuring a water wall right next to our largest shopping mecca, the Galleria. And I haven't even mentioned Herman Park, which is between downtown and the medical center, featuring an outdoor theater, the museum of natural science, the Japanese gardens, outdoor water play areas, two playgrounds (little kids and big kids), multiple picnic areas, a pond with paddle boats and sectioned off nature areas, a miniature train, the zoo, and a 18 hole golf course.

Now, the weather might make these parks a bit of a challenge at times, but you can't accuse the parks of not existing.

Tx/Rx Labs Open House (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029241)

Tx/Rx Labs has an open house every friday at 7, Come on Down and See us, at 205 Roberts st Houston, Tx right down the road from Minute maid Park,
txrxlabs.org

You lost me at Houston. (3, Funny)

whargoul (932206) | about 7 months ago | (#45029265)

The only thing worse than being in Houston is driving to Houston.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029329)

Perhaps the only thing worse than driving to Houston.. is driving in Houston.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (1)

timothy (36799) | about 7 months ago | (#45029577)

A good call. I've lived in Texas for a chunk of my life, but not explored nearly as much as I'd like, including some of the big cities -- the odd, usually short visit is all. Driving both to (and as someone else already noted) *in* Houston is sort of an ordeal, partly for congestion, partly because of just how big the place is. I have friends with a Houston mailing address who are something like 20 miles from downtown.

I understand it's a great city in many ways, but getting around is unfortunately a bit of a turnoff ;) If I lived in a city like that (where getting around by car is a frequent need) I think it would drive me to finally get an electric car of some kind, or at least a hybrid, for the low-speed driving that eats my gas at present.

The TX/RX neighborhood is certainly an interesting one, though -- parking is easy, too.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45030365)

As someone who lives in Austin, if one is commuting around the city core, I'd probably second the electric car, or at least a plug-in hybrid (Volt, Prius, Ford C-MAX, i-MiEV, etc.) The main reason is to save gas when idling and running the A/C.

What was sad was going to Houston for a week recently, finding it had better traffic and commute times than Austin. Since Austin hasn't seen a traffic improvement since 1995 (highway 183), other than toll roads, the city is almost unlivable. Want to visit a local park? Hah. Zilker is locked up tight for the next two weeks due to ACL, and most parks have no way near them unless you don't mind a 30 minute bus ride. Houston, I was almost flabbergasted by being able to drive into Bear Creek Park with some friends, find easy parking, and hit a pavilion to eat, and then look at the fairly rudimentary zoo there. Closest attraction like that with free parking is probably the Domain, but instead of animals and park benches, you get to watch wild hipsters at coffee shops.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029621)

I hear ya. We have friends moving to Houston from the - by comparison - much cooler and less humid Northern California and I think they're going to be in for a rude awakening.

I don't want to live anywhere that has "legendary" humidity.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (2)

steveg (55825) | about 7 months ago | (#45029757)

Guess it depends on perspective. A buddy of mine used to work in Louisiana. They used to like to visit Houston because it was so *dry*.

I visited Houma with him. He had a point.

Re:You lost me at Houston. (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 7 months ago | (#45035695)

Living in Houston is like living in a dog's mouth. Hot, wet, and smelly.
It is the armpit of Texas.

The dissapointing thing... (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#45029403)

...about hackerspaces, is that there are always a few members who are the Elite, and are somehow allowed to break the rules. In this case it appears to be "Mark", who has managed to fill an entire bay with obsolete junk, depriving others of desirable and useful bench space.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (2)

darronb (217897) | about 7 months ago | (#45029585)

Actually, there is a membership level where you can get spaces that big. Also, I believe Mark does a lot of mentoring, teaches classes, etc. There's also an upstairs section in that area you haven't seen yet with more people space. Try not to prejudge based on what you think you see in a panning video shot, eh? I've been there a couple times on the open house nights. It's a pretty neat place.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029731)

For what it's worth, I wouldn't have watched the video if I hadn't first read the GP's comment - I wanted to see the cluttered bay. :)

I don't think it's fair to call it 'prejudging' - there is a huge space that is unusable because it's filled with Mark's stuff, regardless of how great a guy he is, or how much mentoring he does. I think Bartles makes a fair observation - I think the issue of a successful space like this becomes one of people and personalities, which is a harder problem than getting space or tools. That said, I would love to have something like this in my town.

 

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#45029915)

Granted, I don't know Mark, and have no knowledge of this space's rules or arrangements. But this is a pattern I see repeated in every hackerspace I have visited.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

ZFox (860519) | about 7 months ago | (#45030241)

is unusable because it's filled with Mark's stuff, regardless of how great a guy he is, or how much mentoring he does.

It still sounds like you are jumping to conclusions; what if he pays a monthly fee for that much space? They have a membership level that provides you with your very own workbench. They also have membership levels that provide you with shared workspaces and lockers (this was before they moved to their larger location; I'm assuming it is the same). If you still think that is unfair then it does not matter, anyways--you are obviously not a Texan (yes, I am fully aware I just made a logical fallacy--it was a joke).

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about 7 months ago | (#45039569)

What if someone were to pay a monthly fee to rent all the space and use it as storage space. Guaranteed income for a non-profit, but doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?

Re:The dissapointing thing... (2)

Lennie (16154) | about 7 months ago | (#45029749)

He did say Mark was renting that space. It might be a good thing for a non-profit to have some regular income.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 7 months ago | (#45029935)

fill an entire bay with obsolete junk, depriving others of desirable and useful bench space.

I dunno about your setup, but this is kind of the status quo at the QC-colab in Davenport, IA.

I mean, "obsolete junk" is pretty subjective. We've got the sewing machines that are working perfectly, but nobody's touched them in years. The giant robotic arm is completely busted and would need a monumental reverse engineering to get up and running, but it looks damn cool when you enter the electronics room. The pile of literal scrap PCBs below it, not so much. The kilns have massive potential, we want to start smelting, but nobody has had time. The whole thing is kind of one giant circulation of broken dreams and half-thought out projects which move around making way for more of the exact same thing. And somehow cool shit slips through the cracks and makes the whole thing worth it.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45030225)

Useless??? Clearly you do not have a discerning eye for what lies in that space. Study your history and your electronics test bench equipment and get back to us.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

ninlilizi (2759613) | about 7 months ago | (#45031327)

I've been a regular member of the London Hackspace for a few years. And this is something that I've never seen as being a problem here.

There have been a few issues with anarchists and activists showing up, trying to import politics and generally walk all over the rules. But firmly bouncing them from the premises till they got the message such disruption is unwelcome solved the issue each time.

Re:The dissapointing thing... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45031867)

In general Tx/Rx charges more money per square foot as you rent more space. This is because what is valuable to use as a non-profit is for people to be working on projects not people renting space from us. Also as when you are renting space from us it is part of the deal that if you do not use it we may take it back so other people may utilize the space for projects and or other table memberships.

Tx/Rx Labs Open House (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029421)

Stop on by Tx/Rx Labs has an open House every friday from 7pm-11PM we are located at 205 roberts st
just down the road from Minute Maid Park.

Re:Tx/Rx Labs Open House (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 7 months ago | (#45029961)

I read that 205 robots st and though "damn, how cool is that". Then I re-read it. You should talk to your mayor and have it fixed.

Not the biggest (1)

TwoStep (36482) | about 7 months ago | (#45029629)

Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA is 40,000 square feet (this place is 14,000)

Re:Not the biggest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029711)

This is why I hate texas, those fuckers are soooo full of fucking shit. Seriously, stfu!

Re:Not the biggest (1, Funny)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 months ago | (#45030137)

Everything's bigger in Texas. Even our lies.

After all, we got Bush, Jr. living here.

Re:Not the biggest (1)

djbckr (673156) | about 7 months ago | (#45030989)

Everything's bigger in Texas. Even our lies. After all, we got Bush, Jr. living here.

Really, this thread isn't about politics, and it didn't need to devolve there. There are plenty of other places to whine about politics.

Re:Not the biggest (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | about 7 months ago | (#45031947)

Yeah not the biggest, but they look like they are doing a good job and that's all that matters. Gotta love /. haters finding something to whine about (not you TwoStep, the people whining about other things). If you can't get excited about a place where geeks and people that want to make stuff can share equipment that few people can afford on their own, so they can make cool stuff, go read somewhere else.

The Geek Group [thegeekgroup.org] also has 42,000 square feet, but it appears to be a work in progress.

At least they have clear pricing unlike Metrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45029783)

Metrix Create:Space in Seattle hides their pricing in a tiny JPEG with compression artifacts. Last time I went, they wouldn't honor the prices that I think are in their price list. Honestly, it's so hard to read that I don't know how was right. Either way, they lost their temper and angrily told several of us that their price list was not something they wanted shared.

It's a shop (2)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 7 months ago | (#45029847)

Hackerspace? It's a shop. We don't have to keep making up new words where there are perfectly good ones available.

Re:It's a shop (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 7 months ago | (#45030041)

Oh good! A shop.

How about a little red Leicester? I do hope you're not out of that particular cheese.

Re:It's a shop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45030305)

I believe that you are thinking of "shoppe".

Re:It's a shop (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 7 months ago | (#45032501)

Well generally a hackerspace is a bit more broad in scope.
It's not JUST a shop, many will have smaller electronics areas, or even arts/crafts areas. When someone mentioned a "shop" they dont really think painting easels and sculpting tables.

I've said it once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45030723)

And I'll say it again: FIX THE FUCKING PAN ON YOUR SOUND!!!! The production value of some of the videos you put out makes it look like your working with Movie Maker on Windows XP

Fucking annoying.

Not the largest - TechShop (1)

Skynyrd (25155) | about 7 months ago | (#45040775)

14,000 sq ft is a lot of space, but it's certainly not the largest of the hackerspaces.

TechShop has 6 locations, and one more opening next month, that all have 15,000+ sq feet indoors. Monthly fees are $100 to $125 for access to everything. They have newer equipment, as well as walls between the woodshop, metalshop and machine shop.

It's great to see places like this opening all over the country.

mine's only 5000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45080569)

Wow. I thought my 5000 sq ft shop, er, "hackerspace" was big! I guess if there's more than 1 person using it...

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