Hackaday Unconference this Saturday (in Triplicate)

This Saturday we’re hosting the Hackaday Unconference — three live events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that are going to jumpstart the idea engines and enthusiasm of everyone who attends. We can’t even tell you what the Unconference is about; it’s the people who participate that make the schedule and guide the discussion. Everyone there will be ready to give a talk of at least eight minutes on something that excites them right now. As the day goes on, ideas will feed off of each other and people will give talks and lead discussions they hadn’t even thought of before hearing other presentations of the day. It’s an atmosphere that you’ve never experienced unless you’ve been to an Unconference.

If you are located near one of these events it’s not too late to sign up. We’ve expanded the RSVP limit for Chicago and Los Angeles. And San Francisco has a waiting list that will likely be released at some point this week. So sign up now!!

Those not located nearby can still peek in to see what’s happening. We’ll be covering all three events on Hackaday Twitter,  Hackaday Facebook (including some Facebook Live blips throughout the day), and Hackaday Instagram using the #HackadayUncon hashtag. While you’re looking through all the ways to stay connected with us, you should sign up for the weekly Hackaday.com newsletter to pick up any stories you might have missed and get a few hints of what is ahead.

Q Has Nothing on Naomi Wu

We’re not so much fans of James Bond as we are of Q, the hacker who supplies him with such wonderful things. There is a challenger to Q’s crown, [Naomi Wu] — code name [SexyCyborg] — built an epic gadget called the Pi Palette which hides a Linux laptop inside of a cosmetics case.

You can see the covert mode of the Pi Palette below. It resembles a clamshell cosmetics case with the makeup and applicator in the base and a mirror on the underside of the flip-up lid. The mirror hides an LCD screen in the portrait orientation, as well as a Raspberry Pi 3 running Kali Linux.

The base of the case includes a portable battery beneath the wireless keyboard/touchpad — both of which are revealed when the cosmetics tray is removed. An inductive charger is connected to the battery and [Naomi] built a base station which the Pi Palette sits in for wireless charging.

She envisions this as a covert penetration testing. For that, the Pi Palette needs the ability to put the WiFi dongle into promiscuous mode. She wired in a dual dip-switch package and really went the extra mile to design it into the case. The fit and finish of that switch is just one tiny detail the illustrates the care taken with the entire project. With such a beautiful final project it’s no wonder she took to the streets to show it off. Check that out, as well as the build process, in the video after the break.

Continue reading “Q Has Nothing on Naomi Wu”

Closer Look at Everyone’s Favorite Blinky

Admit it, you love looking at silicon die shots, especially when you have help walking through the functionality of all the different sections. This one’s really easy for a couple of reasons. [electronupdate] pointed his microscope at the die on a WS2812.

The WS2812 is an addressible RGB LED that is often called a Neopixel (a brand name assigned to it by Adafruit). The part is packaged in a 5×5 mm housing with a clear window on the front. This lets you easily see the diodes as they are illuminated, but also makes it easy to get a look at the die for the logic circuit controlling the part.

This die is responsible for reading data as it is shifted in, shifting it out to the next LED in the chain, and setting each of the three diodes accordingly. The funcitonality is simple which makes it a lot easier to figure out what each part of the die contributes to the effort. The diode drivers are a dead giveaway because a bonding wire connected to part of their footprint. It’s quite interesting to hear that the fourth footprint was likely used in testing — sound off in the comments if you can speculate on what those tests included.

We had no trouble spotting logic circuitry. This exploration doesn’t drill down to the gate level like a lot of [Ken Shirriff’s] silicon reverse engineering but the process that [electronupdate] uses is equally fun. He grabs a tiny solar cell and scopes it while the diodes are running to pick up on the PWM pattern used to fade each LED. That’s a neat little trick to keep in your back pocket for use in confirming your theories about clock rate and implementation when reverse engineering someone else’s work.

Continue reading “Closer Look at Everyone’s Favorite Blinky”

Friday Hack Chat: Mechanical Manufacturing

Join [Sylvia Wu], a Senior Manufacturing Engineer at Fictiv, for this week’s Hack Chat. [Sylvia’s] work at Fictiv gives her a unique viewpoint for modern manufacturing. The company connects engineers with rapid manufacturing by taking in a design and routing it to a shop that has the tools and time to fabricate the part quickly. This means seeing the same silly mistakes over and over again, but also catching the coolest new tricks as they pass by. She also spends time tearing apart consumer products to see how they have been manufactured, adding to their arsenal of available processes, both time-tested and newfangled.

Anyone interested manufacturing needs to get in on this Hack Chat. Mark your calendar for this Friday, 3/10 at noon PST (20:00 UTC)

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Upcoming Hack Chats

On Friday March 17th the Hack Chat features chip design for oscilloscopes with engineers from Keysight.

Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference Happening on 3/18

Reserve your spot at the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference on Saturday, March 18th. The Hackaday community is huge in LA and this event will fill up, so don’t delay.

The Unconference is a unique opportunity to decide the course of the day as it happens. Everyone who attends should be ready to stand and deliver at least eight minutes on a topic they find exciting right now. The energy this creates is the key to a level of involvement that can’t be matched at traditional conferences that have a divide between those presenting and those attending.

LA Joins Chicago and San Francisco

This announcement of the Los Angeles Hackaday Unconference joins two others happening the same day. Last week we announced San Francisco as a host location and the event is now full… but anyone in the area should still get their name on the waiting list. Four days ago we announced Chicago as the second location and that event will likely reach capacity today. [Shulie Tornel] and [Jasmine Brackett] are organizing things at the LA event which is being held at the Supplyframe Design Lab from 1 – 8 pm on 3/18.

Build Something that Matters

You can speak on any topic you want, but sometimes having a theme helps to get the ideas flowing. When considering your topic, keep Build Something that Matters in mind. Have you been looking into a technology, project, or idea that can make life a little (or a lot) better for the world? That would be an exquisite topic.

At the beginning of the day we’ll go around the room and get the talk title or subject from everyone there, then as a group we’ll hammer out a schedule for the day. As presentations progress, we encourage new impromptu talks to spring up, and can even split those off into a second talk space or discussion group. We’ll have food and drink on hand, as well as some interesting hardware to give out as door prizes.

The Hackaday Unconference is the ultimate idea and energy exchange in a crowd of your peers. You’ll have a hard time finding a cooler way to spend a Saturday this year. See you there!

Amazon S3: Out Like a Light; On Like a Bathtub

You no doubt heard about the Amazon S3 outage that happened earlier this week. It was reported far and wide by media outlets who normally don’t delve into details of the technology supporting our connected world. It is an interesting thing to think that most people have heard about The Cloud but never AWS and certainly not S3.

We didn’t report on the outage, but we ate up the details of the aftermath. It’s an excellent look under the hood. We say kudos to Amazon for adding to the growing trend of companies sharing the gory details surrounding events like this so that we can all understand what caused this and how they plan to avoid it in the future.

Turns out the S3 team was working on a problem with some part of the billing system and to do so, needed to take a few servers down. An incorrect command used when taking those machines down ended up affecting a larger block than expected. So they went out like a light switch — but turning that switch back on wasn’t nearly as easy.

The servers that went down run various commands in the S3 API. With the explosive growth of the Simple Storage Service, this “reboot” hadn’t been tried in several years and took far longer than expected. Compounding this was a backlog of tasks that built up while they were bringing the API servers back online. Working through that backlog took time as well. The process was like waiting for a bathtub to fill up with water. It must have been an agonizing process for those involved, but certainly not as bad as the folks who had to restore GitLab service a few weeks back.

[via /r/programming]

Chicago to Host Hackaday Unconference

We’re excited to announce that Chicago will play host to the Hackaday Unconference on March 18th. We are happy to expand our unconference plans to include this event at Pumping Station One from 1-8pm on 3/18.

Astute readers will notice that this is the second location we have announced this week. On Monday we shared the news that San Francisco would host an unconference. Hackaday’s [Sophi Kravitz] and [Jordan Bunker] are organizing things in SF. [Brian Benchoff], [Bob Baddeley], and [Mike Szczys] will be in Chicago for this event that takes shape based on what you find most interesting.

We’re excited that PS:One is opening their doors for us. We’ll make sure there’s food, beverage, some exciting hardware-based door prizes, and other select swag.

Hackaday Unconference is Based on You

The Hackaday Unconference is all about finding interesting talks from anyone who attends. If you go, and you definitely should, be ready to stand up and deliver eight minutes on something that you find interesting right now. The day will start by going around and asking everyone for a talk title or topic. We’ll all make a collective decision on the schedule for the day and roll with it as talks are bound to spawn extemporaneous discussion and follow up presentations that build on the most exciting of concepts. Unconferences are interactive and not bound by the traditional presenter/audience divide of a conference.

You may speak about anything you like, but it sometimes deciding what to talk about is easier if there are some constraints. Consider the theme of the Hackaday Unconference to be Build Something That Matters. You hear this a lot from us because we think it is important. There is immense talent and incredible experience found in the Hackaday community and we like to take some time in life to direct that for the good of all people. If you have an idea to direct creative energy toward high ideal, it’s likely to make a great presentation.

Soak Up the Excitement to Propel Your Next Project

Pressure is low, excitement is high, and the potential for something spontaneous and awesome to happen is palpable. The ‘here and now’ aspect of an unconference sets it apart from events where speakers, talk subjects, and slide decks are decided upon weeks ahead of time. RSVPs will fill up. Don’t miss out on this chance to jumpstart your excitement for a current project, or to discover the direction of your next adventure.