Time for new things

Farewell, Unit 16

Like many projects, Unit 16 was a casualty of the pandemic. We had a great run (started Unit 15 in 2009, continued in a new location in 2018, up to sixteen active members at our peak). But as the world shut down in 2020-2021, it became clear that the space wasn’t being used as we had hoped.

And so life kept on life-ing. Thankfully we didn’t lose anyone to COVID, but folks got married, had kids, moved, made new commitments closer to home. When it came time to renew the lease this summer we reluctantly decided to shut down the space.

I sent Milly to a new home where she’ll be refurbed and cared for by someone who appreciates her. Even without a 1-ton scanning electron microscope, my tiny garage clearly wasn’t going to be sufficient to hold 14 years worth of hackerspace. So I got a new private space with a friend (and former shopmate).

I’m now moved in and mostly unpacked, but not yet sure what I want to work on next. The workshop is the tool that gets optimized for making some jobs easier than others. For the moment I’m content to have a space to land and to plan my next adventure.

And so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to overhaul this ancient blog. I’ve finally parted with the creaky WordPress I’ve run for decades and moved to Hexo (with the fantastic Fluid theme). I’ve always been somewhat nauseated by the WP ecosystem, and running PHP and MySQL in 2023 made me feel like a bit of a dinosaur. I really dig static generation: you simply write everything in Markdown, run hexo generate, sync some files to S3, and that’s it. No Linux host to maintain, no dodgy plugins to get hacked. And Markdown is pretty much future-proof as an archival format, unlike WordPress (which despite having exporters is full of garbage inline HTML that I’m still cleaning up.)

I also use CloudFlare as an SSL terminator and proxy. Keeps the costs down, performance up, and offloads cert management entirely.

So what next?

I’m not sure what the future holds, but it will almost certainly involve some combination of:

  • Large language model torture
    • Anna is still evolving, but I wish the current AI industry bubble would burst already so I can go back to developing in peace.
  • Longevity research
    • That plasma paper was the last major group project at Unit 16 (aside from teardown).
  • Microscopy
    • Milly may be gone, but SPIM is not out of the question.
  • Robots, lasers, Tesla coils, and all the usual suspects…

Time for new things
Rob Flickenger
Posted on
September 24, 2023
Licensed under