Sunday: Breakfast at DEF CON

Nurse your hangover by having Breakfast at DEF CON with Hackaday this Sunday. You’re invited to our yearly ritual by marking the beginning of the end with coffee and pastries at 10:30 am.

Choosing an exact location in advance is always tricky (anyone who’s been to DEF CON understands). We’ll pick a place once we hit town later this week. For now, head over to the Breakfast at DEF CON event page and hit the “join the team” button on the bottom left so we can let you know when we’ve found the perfect location for the breakfast meetup.

Extra internet points go to those who bring some hardware to show off… and especially for anyone who is making this the end of their Saturday rather than the beginning of Sunday. [Brian] and [Mike] will be there, joined by our friends [Jasmine] and [Shulie] who are on the scene for Tindie, a sponsor of the IoT Village this year. See you on Sunday!

Hackaday Eclipse Meetups

Hackaday is all over this eclipse. There are thousands of members of the Hackaday community headed to a narrow swath of the United States on August 21st to revel in an incredibly rare, scientifically predictable life experience: a total eclipse of the sun.

Do not do it in solitude, get together and celebrate! Check out the Hackaday Eclipse Meetups page which shows where meetups are happening. And adding your own is simple. It’s a great day to meet up with other Hackaday readers and celebrate the day that the moon passed perfectly between you and the sun.

You can’t just stare directly at the sun, you need some eclipse glasses. We’re printing up some in black, adorned with the Jolly Wrencher and sending them out to all organized meetups, so get your event page up today and you’re on the list for a little bit of sweet swag. Look for the button on the Eclipse page that says “Host a meetup”.

I’m Too Cool to Watch an Eclipse

If you don’t get what all the hubbub is, you’re missing out. A total eclipse of the sun is an amazing life experience in so many ways. First off, they’re incredibly rare. There hasn’t been a total eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979. The majority of the North American readership hasn’t even had the chance to see one in their lifetimes.

This eclipse shadow visualization is incredible. See the entire transit and learn how they produced this from available data

But of course it goes beyond the value of mere scarcity. Being able to understand, and predict an eclipse conveys a great deal about the progress of humanity. For millennia, a solar eclipse was a shocking (perhaps horrifying) experience. But through the scientific process of observation, the advances of record keeping, and the work of untold numbers of early astronomers we learned. Solar and Lunar eclipses were events that challenged thinking and became some of the earliest scientific discoveries.

This type of advancement hasn’t stopped. Even this year the application of the newest technology is present. Just one example that will turn your head is the shadow simulation that we saw in January. The moon isn’t a perfect sphere, and the combination of its landscape and that of the Earth means the outer fringes of totality will not be straight lines, but an undulating path. It’s a small detail realized in a profound way by a citizen scientist so that we may all enjoy it. Isn’t being alive now absolutely stunning?

Boil it Down for Me

So no, watching a rock cast a shadow won’t blow your mind. But understanding that the movement of this shadow isn’t random, that we didn’t always understand it, and that there are huge forces at work here will humble your modern brain and leave you awestruck. It’s a rare chance to observe with your own senses the evidence of huge masses governed by gigantic gravitational forces at incomprehensible distances through the simple act of a shadow racing across the landscape.

Be there, and make it a celebration of science, humanity, and your own life experience. Share your eclipse meetup now!

DEF CON Badgelife: The ESP Rules All

Badgelife is the celebration of independent hardware creators, working for months at a time to bring custom electronic badges to conferences around the world. This year at DEF CON, Badgelife is huge. It’s not just because this year was supposed to feature a non-electronic badge, and it’s not because the official badge imploded last month — Badgelife is all about people spending most of the year designing, and manufacturing hardware, culminating in one very special weekend.

[Garrett] owns Hacker Warehouse, a store providing all kinds of neat hacker tools ranging from software-defined radios to lock pick sets to side channel analysis toolkits. This year, [Garrett] decided he wanted to branch out his business and get involved in a little bit of hardware creation. He’s been curious about this for some time and figured a limited edition DEF CON badge made sense. What he wound up with is a beautiful little badge with games, blinkies, graphics, and potential to cause a lot of wireless mischief.

Would you look at that. RF design on an independent badge.

The design of the Hacker Warehouse badge is surprisingly simple compared to the Bender Badges and puzzling crypto badges that are also part of this year’s Badgelife hardware celebration. On board is an ESP8266 with a custom PCB implementation that includes a larger Flash chip. The other side of the board is loaded up with four tact switches in a D-pad arrangement. On top is a 96 x 64 pixel full-color OLED display, and blinkies are provided by fourteen mini WS2812 RGB LEDs. Power is provided by two AA cells and what looks to be a nice fancy switching regulator. This is real hardware, not just a few modules thrown together with a bunch of LEDs.

Oh, what wireless fun

This badge is built around the ESP8266, a very interesting WiFi-enabled microcontroller that has more features than it should. [Garrett] is using the ESP as a WiFi scanner of sorts, allowing anyone with this badge to monitor WiFi channels, APs, packets, and — this is important — deauth packets.

Over the last year, there have been a number of projects around the Internet that take an ESP8266 and spew deauthorization frames into the spectrum. These frames cause a WiFi client to stop using an access point, and basically shuts down all the WiFi in an area. It’s well documented, and people have been doing it for years, but the ESP8266 makes deauth attacks so very, very easy. We’re going to see a lot of deauth frames this year at DEF CON, and the Hacker Warehouse badge will be able to detect them. It can also generate these frames, but that capability is locked for now.

Blinking and glowing

An electronic conference badge isn’t cool unless it has obnoxiously bright and glowy LEDs, and the Hacker Warehouse badge is very cool.

Onboard the Hacker Warehouse badge are 14 RGB LEDs, programmed with 46 different patterns that are certainly bright enough to annoy someone. This is what you need for a badge, and it’s beautiful.

This is a truly fantastic badge that’s also a great development board for the ESP8266. Everything you need for portable WiFi gaming fun is already there — you have blinky LEDs, an OLED, what seems to be a fairly nice power supply, and enough buttons to do something interesting. All you need to do to program this badge is attach a USB to serial adapter to the pre-populated header and you really have something. It’s a great badge, and we can’t wait to see the hacks for this great piece of hardware next week at DEF CON.

DEF CON Badgelife: Someone Finally Did It

Badgelife is the celebration of electronic conference badges, a way of life that involves spending far too much time handling the logistics of electronics manufacturing, and an awesome hashtag on Twitter. Badgelife isn’t a new thing; it’s been around for a few years, but every summer we see a massive uptick in the lead up to Def Con.

For the last few years, the designers and engineers deep into Badgelife have had the same conversation dozens of times. One person says, “you know, someone should build a badge that’s a quadcopter.” Another person replies, “Can you imagine how annoying that would be? You’d be putting ten thousand people in a room during the closing ceremonies at DefCon, and a few dozen people would have quadcopters. It would be horrible” Yes, there have been plans to build a quadcopter badge for the last few years, but cooler heads prevailed.

Someone finally did it. The wearable electronic conference badge that’s also a quadcopter is finally here. It’s the work of [b1un7], and it’s going to be exactly as annoying as you would expect.

This badge is actually two PCBs, the first being the quadcopter itself, the second being the joystick/controller. The quad is shaped like the familiar jolly roger found in most Whiskey Pirate badges ([b1un7] hangs with that crew), and the controller is a pirate’s treasure map loaded up with joysticks, buttons, and radios. The motors for this quad appear to be brushed, not brushless, and it looks like the arms of the quad have some space for obnoxiously bright LEDs.

This is an awesome badge but it’s still [b1un7]’s first attempt at making a badge. Right now, there’s still a bit of work to do — there’s only one week until Defcon — but with any luck [b1un7] will have 25 of these wearable electronic conference badges buzzing around. It’s a terrible idea and we love it.

Badge from Diamond Age Comes to DEF CON

We’re huge fans of [Neal Stephenson’s] work and are usually looking to assign some of his vision to the gear that pops up in the real world. But there’s no stretching or squinting necessary with this one. [Kerry Scharfglass] has built a functioning Drummer’s Badge from the foundational Sci-Fi novel The Diamond Age.

The badge is called Sympetrum, which is a genus of dragonfly. In explaining what the badge is and does, [Kerry] instructs you to go and read the book first and we couldn’t agree more. This isn’t recommended reading; if you’re a geek you need to read this book.

The dragonfly badges are from a portion of the book that gets pretty weird, but the gist is that rod-logic (machines build from microscopic carbon nanotubes) is so pervasive that at all times you’re covered in mites that are actually machines. At a party, one of the characters notices everyone is wearing dragonfly pins that begin to pulse with the music and synchronize with each other. They’re actually indicators of what the mites within the wearers’ bodies are doing — synchronizing people with other people.

This badge is a working recreation of that, presumably without the billions of mites controlling people (but who knows, it is DEF CON). At the center of the badge is an STM32 driving ten APA102 modules. Interactivity is based on IR signaling. The badge will cycle random color animations when alone. But each badge also projects clock sync and metadata over infrared, so put some of them in the same room and they’ll tend to synchronize.

Simple, beautiful, and a great geeky backstory. This example of Badgelife proves that hardware badges don’t need to be packed with features, or have a huge BOM cost. If done well, you can do an awful lot with just a little hardware and strong dose of inspiration. It also makes hand-assembly a lot more approachable, which is what you can see in the images above. Thanks [Kerry] for giving us an early look at this badge, can’t wait to see them at the CON.


We’ll be looking for this and all other #Badgelife offerings at DEF CON 25. Join us for a Hackaday meetup on Sunday morning as we once again do Breakfast at DEF CON

Hands-On: New AND!XOR Unofficial DEF CON Badge

In just two weeks, we’ll be flooding into the casinos of Las Vegas for DEF CON. By far our favorite part is the unofficial hardware badges which make their way to the con each year. The AND!XOR team has put together an incredible offering this year with what I’m calling the “Bender on a Bender” badge. They sent us two of them, so let’s jump right in and see what this badge is all about.

Continue reading “Hands-On: New AND!XOR Unofficial DEF CON Badge”

DEF CON BadgeLife: Blinky Bling

This is the biggest year yet for unofficial electronic conference badges. We’re calling it the year of Badgelife, and for the next few weeks, we’re going to be taking a look at the unofficial conference badges being deployed at this year’s DEF CON.

[Mr Blinky Bling] a.k.a. [Benn Hibben] has created his own badge for this year’s con. On board is a bunch of LEDs, WiFi, and capacitive buttons. It’s a WiFi badge for all your AP scanning and deauth needs. The electronics for this badge are a bit more complicated than simply throwing an ESP8266 on a board and calling the design done. The capacitive touch functionality is being handled by an ATTiny88, the OLED display is handled by an ATMega32U4, wireless functions are done with an ESP8266, and there are a few bits and bobs for a LiPo battery.

This WiFi Badge is the focus of an astonishingly successful Kickstarter (ending in just a few hours), and [Mr Blinky Badge] already has enough backers to move 200 badges. This is really a spectacular amount of work; it’s one thing to build a single prototype for an electronic conference badge, but it’s another matter entirely to put a badge into production, source all the parts, handle the assembly, and finally ship all these badges to Kickstarter backers and conference attendees.

If the challenge of building and deploying hundreds of electronic conference badges sounds like fun, you’re in luck. This Friday, we’ll be hosting a Hack Chat with some of the creators of this year’s unofficial DEF CON badge creators. There’s a lot you can learn from these folks, and a lot of very cool badges that will make an appearance at this year’s Def Con.