Three of our Favorite Hackers

It’s one thing to pull off a hack, it’s another entirely to explain it so that everyone can understand. [Micah Elizabeth Scott] took a really complicated concept (power glitching attacks) and boiled a successful reverse engineering process into one incredible video. scanlime-power-smoothing-alterationsWe know, watching 30 minutes of video these days is a huge ask, just watch it and thank us later.

She explains the process of dumping firmware from a Wacom tablet by hacking what the USB descriptors share. This involves altering the power rail smoothing circuit, building her own clock control board to work with the target hardware and a ChipWhisperer, then iterating the glitch until she hones in on the perfect attack.

This, of course isn’t her first rodeo. Also known as [scanlime], she’s been on the scene in a big way for a while now. Check out more of her work, and perhaps congratulate her on recently being scooped up for a Principal Researcher role that we’d like to attribute in part to the hacks she’s been demoing online. You should also thank her for being a Hackaday Prize Judge in 2015 and 2016.

led-handbag-debra-ansel-geekmomprojects-closeupThis year we spotted [Debra Ansell] at Maker Faire, not as an exhibitor but an attendee taking her newest creation out in the wild. [Debra’s] LED matrix handbag is a marvel of fabrication — both design and execution are so great it is hard to believe this is not a commercially available product. But no, the one-of-a-kind bag uses woven leather strips spaced perfectly to leave room for WS2812 RGB LED modules to nestle perfectly. Look slike she even posted a tutorial since we last checked! If you don’t recognize her name, you might recognize her company: GeekMomProjects. She’s the person behind EtchABot, a robotic addendum to the diminutive pocket Etch a Sketch which [Debra] sells on Tindie.

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The custom PCBs of Veronica (in troubleshoot mode)

Our fascination with [Quinn Dunki]’s work goes way way back. She has a software background but her hardware chops are to be admired. Recently we’ve delighted in her efforts to beef up the fabrication abilities of her shop. Want to know how to vet your new drill press — [Quinn] has you covered. We also enjoyed seeing her bring an inexpensive bandsaw up to snuff. There are too many other great hacks from [Quinn Dunki] to start naming them all. We’ll leave you with her amazing work on Veronica, the scratch-built 6502 computer that she brought with her for her Hackaday 10th Anniversary talk. Her avatar at the top is from one of her PCB etching tutorials.

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

Today is the second Tuesday in October — it’s Ada Lovelace day, a worldwide celebration of women in science and technology. The hackers above are some of our all-around favorites and we have featured all of their work frequently. Their impact on technology is undeniable, we give them much respect for their skills and accomplishments. We’d love to hear your own favorite examples of women who have incredible game when it comes to hardware hacking. Please let us know in the comments below.

Glitching USB Firmware for Fun

[Micah Elizabeth Scott], aka [scanlime], has been playing around with USB drawing tablets, and got to the point that she wanted with the firmware — to reverse engineer, see what’s going on, and who knows what else. Wacom didn’t design the devices to be user-updateable, so there aren’t copies of the ROMs floating around the web, and the tablet’s microcontroller seems to be locked down to boot.

With the easy avenues turning up dead ends, that means building some custom hardware to get it done and making a very detailed video documenting the project (embedded below). If you’re interested in chip power glitching attacks, and if you don’t suffer from short attention span, watch it, it’s a phenomenal introduction.

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Engineer Humanity’s Future: The 2016 Hackaday Prize

Today we are proud to launch the 2016 Hackaday Prize. Build Something That Matters and you’ll contribute positively to humanity’s future by expand the frontiers of knowledge and engineering. You’ll also score recognition of your skills, and position yourself to land one of 105 cash prizes totaling over $300,000. Choose a technology issue facing humanity today and build a project that fixes, improves, or bypasses the problem.

You have the talent, the energy, and the capacity to change the world. Make the time and make a difference.

The Hackaday Prize is a competition synonymous with creating for social change. Using your hardware, coding, scientific, design and mechanical abilities, you will make big changes in people’s lives. Every idea has impact, and a massive force of ideas creates real change. This year we have more power than ever before to recognize the engineering projects that are solving problems: One hundred finalists will get $1,000 each for their efforts. This flat prize structure encourages collaboration rather than direct competition. Team up on each others’ projects and improve your overall chances of making it into the finals.

But it doesn’t stop there. From one hundred finalists, five will rise to be named top winners. Our expert judges will carefully review each of 100 world-changing final entries, choosing a grand prize winner to receive $150,000. Second place will be awarded $25,000, with $10k, $10k, and $5k going to third, fourth, and fifth.

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100 Semifinalists for the 2015 Hackaday Prize

Entries for the 2015 Hackaday Prize — the nine-month design contest that challenges you to build something that matters — closed one week ago today. There were over 900 entries and everyone at Hackaday has been blown away by the different approaches used to solve problems affecting a large number of people, and at the huge body of Open Hardware that has been documented by the process.

Today it is our pleasure to announce the 100 Semifinalists who will move on to the next round. Congratulations to you all on this accomplishment. These designs will continue to be refined as we approach the September 21st deadline where 10 finalists will be chosen by our expert judging panel: Akiba, Pete Dokter, Lenore Edman, Limor Fried, Jack Ganssle, Dave Jones, Heather Knight, Ben Krasnow, Ian Lesnet, Windell Oskay, Micah Scott, and Elecia White. The 10 finalists will go on to compete for the Grand Prize: A Trip into Space or $196,883.

For those who didn’t move on to the Semifinal round, please do not take this as a strike against your work. Don’t stop now, your ideas can still change the world!

Best Product finalists were announced in this post.

Browse the 2015 Semifinalists List or the full list of entries.

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Teensy Adds S/PDIF to Library

With Arduino library support on an ARM Cortex M4 processor, it’s no surprise that we’re fans of the Teensy 3.1. And lately, [Paul Stoffregen] has been building out the Audio Library for this platform, making it even more appealing to the synth / audio geeks among us. And now, with just the addition of a highfalutin LED and some software, the Teensy can output digital audio over optical fiber.

S/PDIF, and more specifically optical TOSLINK, uses LED light sent down an optical fiber to encode audio data. The advantage of this over any voltage-level signals (like with regular wires) is that the source and destination devices aren’t electrically connected at all, which gets rid of the dreaded ground loop hum and any RF interference.

An S/PDIF audio data stream is a bit complex, but if you’re interested [Micah Scott] has a fantastic dissection of it up on her blog. Of course, you don’t have to know anything about any of that to simply use S/PDIF with the Teensy Audio Library.

We love open source hardware and software because of the collaborations that make ultra-rapid development of niche stuff like this possible. You can follow along with the development of the Teensy’s S/PDIF capabilities on the PJRC forum. Contributor [Frank B] modestly claims that “everything was already on the internet”, but that doesn’t make it any less cool that they got from zero to working library in a few weeks. (And note the clever use of a precomputed lookup table for speed.)

LED_TOSLINK2On the hardware side, [Paul] has posted up his adapter board for a cheap, but very professional looking, optical TOSLINK sender. But if you’re feeling ghetto, you can simply use a red LED pointed just right into the optical cable.

The end result? Lossless transmission of CD-quality audio from an Arduino-esque microcontroller, sent on a beam of light, for less than the cost of a latté.

Hackaday visits Toronto, Canada

Canada! Just in time for Spring to hit. I went to Toronto to speak at FITC, an arts and technology conference, co-host a Hackaday meetup with HackLab TO, visit the DigiPlaySpace at TIFF, and to check out Globacore’s new digs.

FITC is a conference which celebrates the creativity in technology. Pictured above is Diorama Rama designed by [Christopher Lewis] and [Creative Technologists of Toronto] and built over 4 days by participants at FITC. The buildings are laser cut paper, and participants create a simple circuit using an ATtiny. A message is coded into the chip in ASCII and the buildings blink an individual message back in Morse code, each building blinking a different message. It’s pretty interesting to use a Morse –> ASCII phone app (Morse Tools) to read the messages.

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Looking at Diorama Rama with Morse Tools

Hackaday Prize judge [Micah Elizabeth Scott] gave a talk about her work. [Jessica Rosenkrantz] of Nervous System spoke about her company’s process when designing mathematically based objects. She spoke about her 3D printed dress pictured below and how it was made. Amazing! I also got to show off my newly minted Breathe project at FITC.

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Kinematics by Nervous System

After FITC ended, HackLab co-hosted a meetup with us. A team from HackLab was a 2014 Hackaday Prize Semifinalist and won $1000 in components with their Retro Populator, a Pick and Place machine retrofit onto a 3D printer. We had beer as well as almond-cream flavored non-alcoholic drinks from the Luma Droid, a drink mixing robot. HackLab is a good-sized hackerspace, with a huge room for a meetup, a full kitchen and vegan dinner served frequently, plus a shop tools room all by itself.

Among the lightning talks, [Pearl Chen] brought her Intel Edison-powered alarm clock that has but one function — to tell her when she is running late. [Johannes van der Horst] brought a USB current monitor that had many of us fascinated for about an hour at the end of the evening, plugging in a phone or a battery just to see the numbers climb. [Eric Boyd] talked about the DIY Bio projects that are going on at HackLab. They are testing meat using PCR to see if it is indeed, beef. Ew.

[Andrew Kilpatrick] of Kilpatrick Audio showed us an older version of his synthesizer before showing us his newest revision, Phenol, which looks pretty slick.

[Hugh Elliot] spoke about a light-photography project. [Leif Bloomquist] spoke about a gaming glove project that Hackaday had previously covered. Leif had a Commodore 64 with him and all the games on it fit into 1 GB! [Nadine Lessio] discussed how many programs claim that you can become an expert in a few hours, but in fact, things are not easy. [Jay Vaidya] showed us an IFTTT hack which controls heaters and AC. [Andy Forest] showed us an impressive interactive model of Ontario’s power system that kids at Steam Labs created.

That was a super fun meetup! Thanks HackLab for hosting. We’ve got a bunch of upcoming meetups and larger events in LA, NYC, Bangalore, San Francisco and Shenzhen. Check our events page for what, where, and when, We’d love to see you.

I stopped by TIFF’s Bell Lightbox to see the DigiPlaySpace exhibit. [Micah Scott] did a collaboration with Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media which welcomes you as you walk in. Note: all photos are lifted directly from TIFF.net’s website.

My final stop on this tour was to visit Globacore’s new offices. We spent a day or so hacking on a VR controller for their newest game called Power Cube. Power Cube is an Oculus Rift experience with a custom game controller holding an accelerometer, a gyroscope and magnetometer that links into the game directly.

See ya Toronto, I can’t wait to come back!

2015 THP: Judges and Sponsors

And now it’s time to recognize a big part what makes the Hackaday Prize possible: our Judges and our Sponsors. First up are the Judges. We are fortunate again this year to be joined by top experts from around the world. We are going to briefly touch on each in this post, but you really should hit the Judge’s page for bios and links on everyone.

New Judges in 2015

We have seven judges new to the panel this year:

We love seeing a project pic used as an avatar and [Akiba] of freaklabs didn’t disappoint; we covered that project in 2013. [Pete Dokter], known well for According to Pete, joins us from Sparkfun. [Lenore Edman] and [Windell Oskay] are the force behind Evil Mad Scientist Labs. [Heather Knight] of Marilyn Monrobot is finishing her PhD in Robots at Carnegie Mellon. [Ben Krasnow] should need no introduction; formerly of Valve, currently of Google[x], and always of Applied Science. [Micah Scott] is artist/engineer/hacker and her Blu-Ray drive RE work is among our most favorite of 2014 hacks.

Returning Judges

Five of our friends from the 2014 Hackaday Prize are returning this year:

We have a hard time calling the founder of Adafruit anything other than [Ladyada] but you may know her as [Limor Fried]. The hardware design site The Ganssle Group is spearheaded by [Jack Ganssle]. You know [Dave Jones] from his electronics design and reverse engineering videos on EEVblog and also from the Amp Hour podcast. [Ian Lesnet] is a Hackaday alum, creator of Dangerous Prototypes, and expert regarding manufacturing in China. And finally, [Elecia White] is an extraordinary embedded engineer, founder of Logical Elegance, and the Embedded podcast.

Welcome back, and so happy to have the new Judges this year!

2015 Hackaday Prize Sponsors

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The 2015 Hackaday Prize is presented by Supplyframe (parent company of Hackaday). This year we have added five giants of the hardware world as sponsors. We don’t recall having seen so many major players come together for a single initiative. We’re excited that they share our vision of supporting design initiatives. Please thank them by following their Hackaday.io pages: Atmel, Freescale Semiconductor, Microchip, Mouser Electronics, and Texas Instruments. Thank you sponsors!