Southwest Tour: [Mikey Sklar's] homestead

While on our southwest tour, we were sure to make some time to go visit [Mikey Sklar]. He’s been a friend of hackaday for a long time, both as a writer and as someone who sends us cool projects. As you may have noticed from some of the posts we’ve done on his projects, [Mikey] lives in the middle of the desert and is attempting to lead a fairly self sustaining life style. He and [Wendy] showed us their gardens, the hot spring on their property,and some cool building materials they’ve utilized. We got to tour [Mikey's] workshop and check out how his solar system was set up. It was pretty cool seeing “da Pimp” being used to revive old batteries. [Mikey] even mentioned that he’s building in a lot of safeguards in the next revision based on the feedback he got online.

What I really enjoyed about talking with [Mikey] and [Wendy] was that they didn’t act like they had it all figured out. They’re approaching this whole lifestyle as a learning adventure as you can hear when [Mikey] talks about their bees.

Mikey Sklar on The Daily Show

mikey sklar

Yesterday’s The Daily Show (8-23-06) had a segment featuring friend of Hack-A-Day Mikey Sklar. You probably remember his projects: Making RFID proof pockets, embedding an RFID chip in his hand, and his current project the high-lighter, a trampoline controlled flame thrower. Mikey is on the road to Burning Man right now so he hasn’t seen the 2 minutes they got out of the 8.5 hours of filming. It can’t be all bad though: this screen cap is right before Samantha Bee unzips her pants and he got just as much screen time as Ray Kurzweil. You can download the torrent here. Mikey’s segment starts at 7 minutes; there is some more during the credits.

UPDATE: Dan Lane (also chipped) uploaded the short segment to YouTube. Video after the break.

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Book Review: The Good Life Lab

the-good-life-lab

Stop whatever you’re doing and get this book. I’ve just finished reading it and I have to say that [Wendy] and [Mikey] could easily be the poster children for modern day hacking, and this book could be the manual for a life built on hacking.

When I visited [Wendy] and [Mikey] last year I was blown away.  Their little homestead was a veritable smorgasbord of hacks. Everywhere I looked, things were cobbled together, modified, repaired, and improved. There wasn’t a single piece of their lives that wasn’t somehow improved by their efforts to play an active role in their own living.

That sounds a bit cheesy I know. We all play an active role in our lives right? Sure. But what they have done is created a hacker’s homestead. My projects tend to live on my workbench, occasionally poking into my daily life, but they went were there was virtually nothing and hacked together everything they found they needed.  Their life is their workbench.

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Open source capactive charger resurrects an electric skateboard

mikey-sklar-on-electric-skateboard

Here’s [Mikey Sklar] posing on his new electric skateboard. Well, it’s new to him at any rate. He bought it used on eBay for $250. That may not sound like much of a deal, but these will run more like $800 retail. The savings comes because the thing would no longer charge. But it took him just an hour and a half with his capacitive charger to resurrect the flat lithium cells.

The first thing he did in trouble shooting the situation was to measure the voltage of the battery pack. It registered 5V, which is a far cry from the 36V it should supply. The built-in charger does nothing, as it’s circuitry isn’t designed to work in a situation like this one. But [Mikey] has a tool perfect for this purpose. Da Pimp is a capacitive charger which we’ve seen before. It succeeds where the other failed because it is able to adapt itself to the internal resistance of the battery, no matter what voltage level it starts at.

[Mikey] shows off the use of his charger in the clip after the break. His first test run was more than two miles without issue.

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Announcing: International Hack Day, August 11th.

There is no single and definitive definition of what hacking is. We all have different versions of similar ideas in our head, but depending on your background and area of enthusiasm, hacking means something different. While dictionary.com has many definitions of the word itself, none seem to cover what we see on a daily basis.

We set out to define “hacking” ourselves. We tossed around words like “modify”, “kludge”, “explore”, and “create”. Each time we committed an increasingly vague definition onto the page, we decided it was too narrow and tossed it in the proverbial trash. The variations were just too many.

What we do know is that “hacking” seems to breed advancement and innovation. Much like mutations in an evolutionary chain, each hack pushes the topic in a slightly new direction, inspiring others and thereby perpretuating the evolutary event. In a very short time we’ve witnessed hacking bring forth the evolution of wagons to cars, kites to airplanes, and the creation of the computer.

We at Hackaday would like to declaire August 11th to be “International Hack Day”. A day to celebrate hacking in all of its diverse forms. From soldering to sewing, coding to carbonating, knitting to knurling, we want you to keep on hacking. Take August 11th as a day to show pride in your hacking. Waive your hacker flag high and educate those around you.

We have asked many of our friends to contribute their personal definition of hacking. Here they are, in the order they were received.

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Hackaday southwest tour

Earlier this summer, I took a trip through the southeast of the country. On this trip I was able to visit several hackerspaces and meet some really great people. We started at Squidfoo in Springfield Missouri. Then Moved on to Makers Local 256 in Huntsville Alabama. After that we saw 7hills hackerspace in Rome Georgia as well as Freeside hackerspace in Atlanta Georgia. The final leg of the trip took us to Chatt*Lab in Chattanooga Tennessee and the Hacker Consortium in Nashville.

For this trip, I am taking my family to the Grand Canyon. Well, that’s the part the kids are looking forward to. I’m looking forward to more hackerspaces and fantastic people. If you’re along the route from Springfield Missouri to Flagstaff Arizona, let me know (we’ll be hitting roswell NM on the way back too). We can go a little out of our way, but not hours.  I would really love to visit some hackerspaces on this trip and do a video tour. You can comment here or hit me directly at caleb@hackaday.com.

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Geeks living off the grid are hard on batteries

Many of you will remember [Mikey Sklar] from the multitude of times he’s been on hackaday. What you may not have noticed is that he is an ubergeek, living off the grid.

He has Solar PV battery bank, three electric vehicles, a shipping container loaded with battery powered tools and a small army of iRobot Roomba’s for cleaning. Getting the maximum lifetime out of a battery by removing sulfation is essential to keep expenses down.

Keeping expenses down is nearly a full time job when trying to live the homestead lifestyle. Our current culture makes it extremely difficult to survive completely on self made/grown things and bartering. They seem to be doing pretty well though. One way he can reduce his costs while still getting to enjoy some modern gadgets is to get longer life out of his batteries.  He does this by using a capacitive battery charger and desolfator that he designed and affectionately calls “Da Pimp”. He also brings in a little bit of income by selling kits!

 A capacitive charger behaves like a constant current power supply dynamically adjusting the voltage to get over the batteries internal resistance. Plus there is a pulse from the AC/DC conversion. This allows for old batteries to last longer and for dumpster dived to be used as replacements. Capacitive chargers are small, silent and super efficent (up to 60% more so than cheap transformer based chargers).

Of course, [Mikey] is a supporter of sharing information so you can also go to his site and download the schematics,bill of materials, gerber files, and files for the housing,  to build one yourself.

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