Impostor Syndrome And Individual Competence

When you attend a very large event such as EMF Camp, there is so much going on that it is impossible to catch everything. It’s easy to come away feeling that you’ve missed all the good stuff, somehow you wasted your time, everyone else had complete focus and got so much more out of the event.

In an odd twist, one of the EMF 2016 talks people have been raving about is very relevant to that fear of inability to take in a festival programme. [Jessica Rose] gave a talk about imposter syndrome. A feeling of inadequacy compared to your peers and a constant anxiety at being exposed as a fraud that will probably be very familiar to many readers. As she points out, it’s a particularly cruel affliction in that it affects those people who do have all the skills while the real impostors share an inflated competence in their abilities.

This has significant relevance to many in our community and for a single presentation to get so many people talking about it at an event like EMF Camp means it definitely hit the mark. The full video is embedded below the break. At about half an hour long it’s well worth a look.

Continue reading “Impostor Syndrome And Individual Competence”

Beer And Hacks In London and Beyond

We’ve been all over the UK this month, our most recent Hackaday gathering just two nights past. With much hardware and hacker show and tell (recounted below) I wanted to make sure nobody missed the chance to join in as we’ll be in Bletchley on Saturday and in Cambridge on Wednesday. Whether you need more convincing to walk out the door and join in the fun, or just want to the see the excellent hardware so far displayed, keep reading to share in the fun from Wednesday night.

London pubs have an unfavourable image among provincial folk, one of being strange neon-lit places populated by vast crowds of very loud people in suits drinking cheap wine at expensive prices. The truth is though that the capital’s pubs are as diverse as those anywhere else in the country, from shabby quiet backstreet boozers with their aged customers nursing pints of Fullers to achingly hipster faux-Victorian gin-palaces in which young men sporting preposterous beards they’ll regret in five years time drink microbrewery ales you won’t have heard of served in glass tankards. On a hot August evening the patrons spill out onto the pavement and provide a handy reference to the would-be drinker as to the nature of the establishment.

This warm-evening exodus served our community well night before last, for when a group of Hackaday readers and Tindie sellers converged upon a pub in Fitzrovia there was enough room to reach the bar and though it was hardly quiet we could at least discuss the things we’d brought along. My colleague [Jasmine] had organised the event and was on hand with a pile of stickers and other swag.

A select group of hackers and makers made the journey. Some of them, such as my friend [David], I had encountered frequently online but never met in person so it was good to put a face to a name, while others I knew only by the reputation they had garnered through the projects they’d put on Hackaday.io or Tindie. I will undoubtedly fail to mention a few names in this quick round-up of a few of the projects, so before I start I would like to thank everyone for coming along and making it such a good evening.

[Jasmine] as seen by [Mike]'s LED screen.
[Jasmine] as seen by [Mike]’s LED screen.

Electric Stuff from Mike’s Workshop

Most visible because of an extensive range of very bright LED projects was [Mike], of [Mike’s Electric Stuff] fame. His PCB density was impressive, though he did admit to having a pick-and-place machine. Especially useful for those large LED matrices. Of note was a pentagonal LED screen with integrated camera, originally part of an LED screen polyhedron. This board offered a rare glimpse of a Raspberry Pi Compute Module in the wild.

Scope Probe Sans Pound Sink

Opposite me for most of the evening was [Leonerd], with his oscilloscope current probe adapter. This board as you might expect contains a very low value shunt resistor and an amplifier, allowing the accurate measurement of low current transients without laying down the GDP of a small country to buy one from a high-end test equipment manufacturer. I was party to a very interesting conversation between him and [Mike] on the subject of instrumentation amplifiers, something of personal interest from my experience with RF test equipment.

The RC2014 in mid-render
The RC2014 in mid-render

A Wild Z80 Appeared

Also present was [Spencer] with his RC2014 Z80-based computer. He’d brought along the fully tricked-out version with keyboard and screen, and had it running a fractal graphic generator written in BASIC. It’s a project that touches a spot in the heart of people of a certain age, if your first computer came from Sir Clive Sinclair then maybe you’ll understand.

The value of the evening was not solely in the kits and projects on display though. Whenever you get a group from our wider community together in a convivial environment the creative discourse flows in unexpected direction, knowledge is shared, and new ideas are formed. Part of the global Hackaday and Tindie community got to know each other yesterday evening, and from that will come fresh projects. They may not necessarily change the world, but everything has to start somewhere.

This event was one of a short series following our successful bring-a-hack at EMF Camp. We were very pleased to see the projects people brought along, they comprehensively eclipsed the little radio board that was my offering. The run of UK events isn’t over, we have ones coming up at Bletchley and Cambridge, and as always keep an eye on the Hackaday.io events page for global events within our community.

Creating Unbeatable Videogame AI

Super Smash Bros. Melee is a multiplayer fighting game released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2001. For the last decade and a half, it has become one of the premier fighting game eSports, and it is the reason Nintendo still makes a GameCube controller for the Wii U. Smash Melee has an intense following, and for years the idea of an AI that could beat top-tier players at Melee was inconceivable – the game was just far too complex, the strategies too demanding, and the tactics too hard.

[Dan] a.k.a. [AltF4] wasn’t satisfied that a computer couldn’t beat players at Melee, and a few years ago started work on the first Melee AI that could beat any human player. He just released Smashbot at this year’s DEF CON, and while the AI is limited, no human can beat this AI.

Continue reading “Creating Unbeatable Videogame AI”

EMF Camp 2016, A Personal Review

If I can offer one piece of advice to the Hackaday readership, it is this: Never, ever, be the sole member of your hackerspace’s board that owns a large station wagon, unless you relish the thought of packing an entire hacker camp village into your vehicle and transporting it halfway across the country in the blazing August heat.

I’ve done my laundry, aired my tent, and just sorted the contents of a brace of Tesco bags into several categories: rubbish, food, camping gear and interesting stuff. As I write this, yesterday was teardown day for Electromagnetic Field 2016, an event that bills itself as “a non-profit UK camping festival for those with an inquisitive mind or an interest in making things: hackers, artists, geeks, crafters, scientists, and engineers”, and this is a personal account of the event from the point of view of both being part of the Oxford Hackspace village and of waving the flag for Hackaday and Tindie.

Continue reading “EMF Camp 2016, A Personal Review”

What We Learned from the 2016 Queercon Badge

DEF CON has become known for the creative electronic badges, and now we get to see a variety of them dangling from lanyards every year. This year, the Queercon badge stood out as the one that got the most people asking “where did you get that?!” Once again, [Evan Mackay], [George Louthan], [Jonathan Nelson], and [Jason Painter] delivered an awesome badge for this con-within-a-con for LGBT hackers and their friends.

The badge is a squid shape, with a nifty clear solder mask, printed on black FR4, and routed with natural curved traces. The squid eyes consist of sixty cyan LEDs, with RGB LEDs on the tentacles. The eyes make expressions, and the tentacles light up with a selectable pattern. Hitting the “ink” button shoots your pattern out to all nearby devices using the 2.4 GHz radio on board, and a set of small connectors can be used to “mate” with other badges to learn patterns. Yes, the Queercon badge always has suggestive undertones.

After playing with it for the whole con, we think this badge has some good lessons for electronic badge designers:

Variable Brightness

The 2016 Queercon Badge with two hats
The Queercon Badge with Two Hats

This badge used a phototransistor as a light sensor to measure ambient light and set the brightness accordingly. With over 60 LEDs, this helped the two AA batteries last for nearly the entire conference.

Power Switches

This badge has a power switch. That switch turns the badge off. This probably sounds very obvious, but it’s also unfortunately uncommon on electronic badges. The switch means people turn the badge off at night, and don’t have to yank batteries when firmware glitches.

Hats!

The badge had two expansion ports on the squid’s head for adding hats. These were given power, and the connector spec was published before the event. Our favourite? A unicorn horn with a rainbow LED inside.

Social Badges are Fun

This has been the fourth Queercon badge in a row that communicated with other badges to unlock things. This is actually a neat way to get people to interact, and leads to a whole host of suggestive puns. Badginal intercourse, anyone?

We’ve heard that next year’s badge is already in the works, and we look forward to seeing what these folks come up with next. For now, you can grab all the hardware design files and get inspired for your own electronic badge build.

DEF CON: BSODomizing In High Definition

A few years ago, [Kingpin] a.k.a. [Joe Grand] (A judge for the 2014 Hackaday Prize) designed the most beautiful electronic prank ever. The BSODomizer is a simple device with a pass-through connection for a VGA display and an infrared receiver. Plug the BSODomizer into an unsuspecting coworker’s monitor, press a button on a remote, and watch Microsoft’s blue screen of death appear. It’s brilliant, devious, and actually a pretty simple device if you pick the right microcontroller.

The original BSODomizer is getting a little long in the tooth. VGA is finally dead. The Propeller chip used to generate the video only generates text, and can’t reproduce Microsoft’s fancy new graphical error screens. HDMI is the future, and FPGAs have never been more accessible. For this year’s DEF CON, [Kingpin] and [Zoz] needed something to impress an audience that is just learning how to solder. They’ve revisited the BSODomizer, and have created the greatest hardware project at this year’s DEF CON.

Continue reading “DEF CON: BSODomizing In High Definition”

DEF CON’s X86 Badge

This year’s DEF CON badge is electronic, and there was much celebrating. This year’s DEF CON badge has an x86 processor, and there was much confusion.

These vias are connected to something.
These vias are connected to something.

The badge this year, and every year, except badges for 18, 17, 16, 15, and 14, designed by [Joe Grand], and badges from pre-history designed by [Dark Tangent] and [Ping], was designed by [1057], and is built around an x86 processor. Specifically, this badge features an Intel Quark D2000 microcontroller, a microcontroller running at 32MHz, with 32kB of Flash and 8kB of RAM. Yes, an x86 badge, but I think an AT motherboard badge would better fulfill that requirement.

As far as buttons, sensors, peripherals, and LEDs go, this badge is exceptionally minimal. There are eight buttons, laid out as two directional pads, five LEDs, and a battery. There’s not much here, but with a close inspection of the ‘chin’ area of the badge, you can see how this badge was programmed.

As with any [1057] joint, this badge features puzzles galore. One of these puzzles is exceptionally hard to photograph as it is in the bottom copper layer. It reads, “nonpareil bimil: Icnwc lsrbcx kc htr-yudnv ifz xdgm yduxnw yc iisto-cypzk”. Another bottom copper text reads, “10000100001 ΣA120215”. Get crackin’.

A gallery of the Human and Goon badges follows, click through for the best resolution we have.

This post has been updated to correct the record of who designed badges for previous cons.