RadioShack Demise Could Signal the Rise of Mom-and-Pop

No matter how you feel about RadioShack, for many hackers it was the one place that components could be sourced locally. Upon hearing that the stores are being shuttered (at least for those seeking non-cellphone items) we wondered if someone would rise to meet the maker market. The answer may actually be mom-and-pops — independent stores owned by people passionate about hacking and making.

tinker-and-twist-boothAt SXSW Create in March the Hackaday booth was right next door one such establishment. [Martin Bogomolni] is hard at work launching his brick and mortar store called Tinker & Twist. In the video below he speaks briefly about the concept of the store, which focuses on curating the best products and tools available and stocking them locally.

The store will be located in a shopping mall in Austin, Texas. But it takes about 100 days launch a storefront considering the permits and build-out. [Martin] decided to take the store to the hackers by exhibiting (and selling products) at SXSW Create. How else would you do this than by building a store-front as your booth? The store’s sign was CNC routed from rigid foam, and combined with a set of columns and storefront window. We stopped by late on the last day of the event and they had been having a great weekend. What started as a very well stocked set of shelves looked nearly bare.

Tinker & Twist is just the most recent in a growing trend of standalone stores focusing on hackers and makers. Our friends at Deezmaker in Pasadena, CA gave us tour last year. They’ve married the concepts of hackerspace, small-run manufacturer (in the form of their 3D printers), and retail store all-in-one. These types of examples make us quite happy — it’s been years since RadioShack was tightly focused on those actually building things. We hope to see more stores like Tinker & Twist up and running to support and enhance hacker communities everywhere.

Retro Edition: VCF East X This Weekend

It’s mid-April and time once again for the Vintage Computer Festival East X. The X means 10. It’s a three-day weekend full of interesting people, cool tech, and computers you’ve only heard about. We’ll be there all three days, and if you’re in New York or are unable to pump your own gas (Oregon excluded), it’s a great way to spend the weekend.

The sessions for this Friday will include everything from chiptunes to retr0bright to emulating vintage computers on FPGAs. Sessions of note include our own [Bil Herd] giving a talk on system architecture. Think of this as a bunch of engineers in a room with a whiteboard. How could you not have fun with that. There will also be the first meeting of the Quarternet committee, headed up by [Jim Brain]. This session will be a discussion of implementing a vintage networking protocol across different models and different brands of vintage computers. Confused? It’s a, “two-bit solution for an eight-bit world.” That’s all we know, and I’m pretty sure that’s all anyone knows. It will be interesting.

Saturday and Sunday will feature an incredible number of exhibits that includes everything from Atari 8-bits, Hollerith cards, mainframes, an amateur radio station (KC1CKV) and somehow a Fairlight CMI. Since this is the 50th anniversary of the PDP-8, there will be a few of these ancient machines on display. A freshly restored Straight-8 will be up and working, as will an incredible emulation from hackaday.io.

Just because there are exhibits doesn’t mean the talks end on Friday. On Saturday the guest speaker will be [Brian Kernighan], the guy who literally wrote the book on C. Sunday will feature [Bob Frankston], co-developer of VisiCalc. There will be very important people here all weekend.

Even if vintage computers aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty of stuff to see at the venue. The InfoAge science center has technological curiosities stretching back a century, and recently they’ve rehabbed an old satellite dish and turned it into a radio telescope. Registration happens here, and if the last few paragraphs haven’t sold you on the event, you can check out [The Guru Meditation]’s VCF preview video below. We will, of course, be posting a lot of stuff from the event.

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Hackaday part of TechCrunch NY Hackathon

The Hackaday Prize Worldwide is coming to New York! Hackaday is adding a hardware-centric twist to the TechCrunch Disrupt in May. They’re kicking off the conference with a weekend hackathon which traditionally has been a software event. This year Hackaday is partnering with TC to make a change. If you’re a software-only sort of person, grabbing a ticket to the event is extremely tough. But those Hackaday community members who want to prove they can make electrons do their bidding still have hope; Hackaday can get you in!

Twenty Hours of Hardware

Show up at 12:30pm on Saturday, May 2nd. By 9:30am the next morning you must have a working piece of hardware having been totally built on-site. Starting at 11am on Sunday you have 60-seconds to show off your build. We’re not kidding around when we say the judging criteria for this hackathon is “Awesomeness”. TC is putting up $5,000 to the winning team. Obviously someone who hangs out around Hackaday should be the winner here so go sign up!

Ticket Registration is a Hack:

TC hackathon tickets are released in shifts and gobbled up immediately, but because you are a friend of Hackaday we’ll can get you in for some epic hardware hacking. Even signing up is a bit of hack but here’s how:

  1. Follow this link which includes a promo code to get a Hackers – Friends of TC ticket
  2. Form/Find a team (up to 5 people) in advance through ChallengePost or you may do so onsite. You’ll notice the tags are software-related so put in “other” and add “hardware” and specific tags you can think of.

The Hardware

We’ll be bringing the basics: lots of dev boards, sensor breakout boards, and tools you need to hook them together. We’ll be posting information about the items we are bringing on our Hackaday Prize Worldwide: New York City page. Make sure you check in for updates so that you can familiarize yourself with what we’ll have on-hand. It is highly recommended that you set up any IDE or other dev tools before arriving at the event.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Mediated Matter at the MIT Media Lab

Few things have managed to capture the imagination of hackers and engineers around the world the way Synthetic Biology did over the last couple of years. The promise of “applying engineering principles to designing new biological devices and systems” just seemed way too sci-fi to missed out on, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. All of a sudden, the field which used to be restricted to traditional research organizations and startups found itself crowded with all sorts of enthusiasts, biohackers, and weirdos alike. Competitions such as the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) paved the way, and the emergence of community spaces like GenSpace and BioCurious finally made DNA experimentation accessible to anyone who dares to try. As it often happens, the Sci-Fi itself did not go untouched, and a whole new genre called “Biopunk” emerged, further fueling people’s imagination and extrapolating worlds to come.

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MRRF: Hot Ends, Extruders, Extremely Posh Brits, and Stoic Swedes

As far as locations for the Midwest RepRap Festival go, it’s not exactly ideal. This is a feature, not a bug, and it means only the cool people come out to the event. There were a few people travelling thousands of miles across an ocean, just to show off some cool things they built.

Two Colors, One Nozzle

[Sanjay] and [Josh] from E3D came all the way from merry olde England to show off a few of their wares. The star of their show was the Cyclops extruder, a dual-extrusion hot end that’s two input, one output. Yes, two colors can come out of one nozzle.

cyclops

If you see a printer advertised as being dual extrusion, what you’re going to get is two extruders and two hot ends. This is the kludgy way to do things – the elegant solution is to make two colors come out of one nozzle.

The guys from E3D were showing off a few prints from their Cyclops nozzle that does just that, including a black and red poison dart frog, and a blue and white octopus. The prints looked amazing, and exactly what you would expect from a two-color print.

Rumor has it the development of the Cyclops involved extruding two colors, freezing the nozzle, and putting it in the mill just to see how the colors mixed. I didn’t see those pictures, but there’s a lot of work that went into this hot end.

The Power of Two Extruders

[Martin] of bondtech.se came to MRRF all the way from Sweden. He was there showing off his new extruder.

The extruder uses a normal stepper motor, but instead of the usual knurled or threaded feed wheel and bearing to push filament though, he’s using two counter-rotating feed wheels attached to a planetary gear system. That’s a lot of torque that doesn’t distort or strip the filament. When you consider all the weird filaments that are coming out – ninjaflex, and even 3D printable machinable wax filament, this is extremely interesting.

Even if your filament isn’t exactly 1.75 or 3mm in diameter, this setup will still reliably push plastic; there is a bolt that will move one of the feed wheels in and out 0.4mm.

[Martin] had a pair of his extruders hooked up to a strain gauge, and it’s strong enough to lift your printer off the table without stripping the filament. Here’s a video of that demo from the bondtech page.

MRRF: Flexible 3D Printing

The concession stand at the Midwest Rep Rap Festival did not disappoint when it came to the expected fare: hot dogs, walking tacos, and bananas for scale. But the yummiest things there could not be bought—the Nutella prints coming off the Ultimaker² at the structur3D booth.

3D printed gasket
Flexible gasket printed in silicone atop a rigid 3D printed engine block.

Hey, what? Yes, an Ultimaker² that can print in Nutella, icing sugar, silicone, latex, wood filler, conductive ink, polyurethane, peanut butter, and a growing list to which you should contribute. This is possible because of their Discov3ry Universal Paste Extruder add-on, which is compatible with most filament printers, especially those that use a RAMPs or Arduino control board.

A large syringe containing the substance of your choice is loaded business end up in the Discov3ry. It gets pushed through tubing that runs to the print head and out through one of many commonly available polypropylene or stainless steel tips. The structur3D team has found that printing on waxed paper works best for the materials they’ve proven out. Each syringe holds 60cc of stuff, and the Discov3ry comes with three of them. They are currently available for pre-order, with a shipping forecast of early summer.

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Makers Asylum

Several weeks before we launched the Hackaday Prize 2015 officially, I was asked to set up a local event in Mumbai to help spread the word about the event to local Makers. Since I also help run a local maker space, Makers’ Asylum, we decided to have a Bring-a-Hack evening on March 21st at the Asylum.

It was a packed day at the Asylum. We had an Aeromodeling workshop in the morning. One bunch was building a quad bike from old bicycle frames, and another was doing something similar using PVC pipes. A third bunch was building a work table from a recycled wooden pallet. All this before we even hit lunch hour. I set up my OpenSelfie photobooth, and everyone quickly wolfed down a lunch of Biryani. We started off late in the afternoon with a quick round of introductions.

 

First up was Siji Sunny, who quickly setup his latest hack – an Intel Atom NUC running Ubuntu + a WiFi router and he had media streaming over the local network from his Phone. Something like AirPlay, but using open source software – ffmpeg, ffstream and ffserver.

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