Thursday, 5 March 2009

Illuminato Update: Now available for pre-ordering...

Ok, there are quite a few things to update on the Illuminato front, the most important being that Mike and I are going to build more, as soon as I can find someone to help fund the remaining ones to get to 50. But first...

A new Illuminato core

Justin (the other Justin) sent in a new Illuminato core file, that has all kinds of crazy stuff in it, like analog PWM'ing, and a bunch of stuff I was too dumb to figure out for myself. That should make the Illuminato a ridiculous board to do servo control from, and analog signal coding...

So I put in some comments, and sent it over to Omar, and now Omar is going to include it in the next release of the Arduino IDE branch he's maintaining...

Illuminato 3D model pr0n

I also wanted to teach myself 3D modeling too, so I could get better at building OSHW mockups of my ideas (really I just wanted to prove to John N that I could model just as well as him... not really):

Let me know if you want the Blender files!

How batch 1 got funded and built

The last time around, Mike and I built 100 Illuminato's by hand (yes it really did take forever!). I was able to afford it because my mentor pitched in the money to do it, and in exchange, I could sell it at cost to everyone who wanted one.

So basically it worked out like this:

1) I designed the board

2) Mike and I said, ok, let's build 50:

3) I talked to my former mentor, since I knew he wanted something like this, and he said he'd buy about 40 for his own personal use in his class, end his own projects:

4) Then Mike and I figured out how much it was going to cost, and realized that if we manufactured 100 it'd be even cheaper all around because hardware costs go down when you buy more (aka the "Quantity Monopoly"):

5) I went back to my friend with the numbers, and he said although he didn't need 100, he'd donate some money to temporarily help me afford to build 50 more, and I could repay him over time if people bought them (the right side is shaded darker now):

6) Mike and I bought parts for 100, 50 for my friend, and to build 50 to keep

7) I put it online at the liquidware web store for sale

8) 32 people came along within the first hour (thanks Make and Hackaday), and bought almost all of them (some guys bought a couple at a time)

9) I swore out loud during my day job which was NOT professional, thinking there's no way I'm going to have time to build these all in 1 weekend... here I am thinking I can take at least a few weeks. So I called around and asked for help, and someone said raise the price to slow people down, while you figure out what you're going to do, which irritated some guys (sorry!) and really didn't slow anyone down either:

10) So Mike and I built them, soldered them, programmed them, tested them, and put them in the mail, and ...


As far as I'm concerned, it was a total success, since I broke even, learned how to solder MUCH better than I ever did in the past (SMT parts have a way of doing that), I repaid my friend / mentor, Mike and I had fun building them, and everyone who wanted to got to have an Illuminato at cost (aka no markup!!!). The little extra markup that Mike and I made at the tail end went 100% towards reimbursing a bottle of diet coke, which pretty much kept us motivated while soldering boards 97, 98, 99, and 100.

Raising money to build the next batch

The problem with batch 1 is that there were 11 people who said they also wanted an Illuminato, but I ran out. Instead of begging my friend for money again (because that's not cool), I tried to be independent-willed, and went to the "real bank" asking for money to temporarily fund another 100 Illuminatos. The banker I talked to all but laughed at me, probably for the fact that I wasn't asking for a lot of money, but also because the bank he was working at had just gotten bailed out by the gov't. I tried 7 banks, and got the same response. Some of bank managers/tellers suggested I just put it all on my credit card, which I almost did, except that you can't buy all the parts needed for the board on a credit card (some component companies don't accept it). So now I've put the Illuminato back up for pre-order, with a catch...

I'm going to monitor and report in real time how many people have placed orders for the Illuminato's. If the number of pre-orders reaches 50 people within the next couple of weeks, I'm going to build them up. I'm also going to use the Open Source Hardware Bank to build not only 50, but 100, so that other people can have them available to buy. And then I'm going to track and report how many have been bought up.

And I've built a set of little picture-generating scripts to help me. Here's a picture of the order queue right now, with all the guys that pre-ordered already:

How to buy an Illuminato

Justin and I have gotten a lot of emails of people asking how they could help me fund more Illuminatos, so I've decided to add a couple of options to the pre-order system:

Most people will probably just want to "Pre-Buy 1" to pre-order 1 with a 15% markup (as opposed to the normal 30-50% or more charged on electronics). I'm hoping that some people will also maybe be willing to help reach the 50 mark by "Pre-Buy 1 - Build 1" or "Pre-Buy 1 - Build 2". That means buying 1 at 15% markup, and giving money to fund another 1 at it's cost. When Mike and I build the Illuminato's, if someone funded one to Build, when Mike and I sell it, we'll just mail you back a check to the cost, plus a 15% markup (or if international, I'll probably just use Paypal). So in effect, in exchange for "Pre Buy 1-Build 1", Mike and I will give out the 15% markup we got from when someone else buys 1, and that means that anyone who "Pre Buy1-Build 1" gets reimbursed for their markup, so it's like getting the Illuminato at cost!

Pre Buy 1-Build 2, if someone is particularly generous (thanks Nick!) is a lot like getting two 15% markups in exchange, which for a lot of people on the East coast will amount to free shipping :)

How to know that this isn't a scam

Because it's not. Because my name doesn't end in "Madoff"? :)

I don't know if it'll help, but at least whenever I give anyone money (for a cause, or otherwise), I like to get at least something physical in return. For everyone that pre-buys, I will print out and snail-mail you a certificate that looks like this, which will identify exactly where in the order queue you are, and it will have a couple of signatures at the bottom, so you know exactly who to hunt down:

And if you REALLY want to hold me accountable, you can always just add me or Justin or Mike as a friend on Facebook, and then you get to see that I'm a real person with real friends too, and I care about my word and doing the right thing...



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