hack.summit(); // a virtual dev conference

If you’d like to spend four days learning from and picking the brains of a big group of well-known developers and open-source wizards for the low, low cost of absolutely free, keep reading.

The hack.summit() conference is a live, global event put on by the  fine folks behind real-time programming assistance service hack.hands(). From December 1 to December 4, a wide range of speakers will present and answer democratically popularized questions over Crowdcast via Google+ Hangouts. Speakers in attendance include wiki inventor and Design Patterns pioneer [Ward Cunningham], Codeacademy founder [Ryan Bubinski], Google Glass creator [Tom Chi], Python Software Foundation’s [Alex Gaynor], and even the inimitable [Jon Skeet].

The goals for this conference are simple and admirable: to educate developers of all stripes about best practices, to encourage mentorship in the programming community, and to spread the joy of coding by supporting coding non-profits.

You can register for free simply by spreading the word through social media, but making a donation to the coding non-profit of your choice is definitely encouraged. There are many to great organizations to choose from such as  CoderDojo (an easy choice for us). A tidy summary of the event is available at the hack.summit() FAQ(PDF).

First Ever Poughkeepsie Mini Maker Faire

This past Saturday was the first Mini Maker Faire held in Poughkeepsie, NY. Although it was the first in the area, the event went extremely well having over 60 makers and countless attendees. It was held at the Poughkeepsie Day School and made use of a large percentage of the indoor area.

roboticarm

Ninth graders of the hosting school [Liam], [Johnson] and [Matt] were proudly displaying some of their projects. One of which was a robotic hand controlled by a glove the user wears. Flex sensors sewn into the glove detect how much each finger is bent. That information is read by an Arduino which then commands 5 independent servos to pull string ligaments to bend the fingers of the 3D printed robotic hand. The kids give credit to this Instructable which was the inspiration for their desire to build such a project.

No Maker Faire would be complete without some 3D printers. On hand was a father/son team that built a Mini Kossel. The design is simple and elegant, and apparently assembly is no problem for even the youngest maker. 3D printing guru [Ed] was on hand with his MakerGear M2 to show some practical uses for 3D printers. They are not just for making Yoda heads! [Ed] also gave a presentation on the matter, explaining why 3D printing is important and useful to people, even the common non-techno-nerd consumer.

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Electronica 2014 Wrap-Up

Make no mistake about it, Electronica is a real trade show, with suits everywhere, meeting rooms packed to the gills, and €4 bottles of soda. If you dig around long enough, you will find some interesting things, as I did on my excursions to the Messe with [Chris Gammell] and [Sprite_TM].

Actual cool booths

This isn’t a show and tell. The purpose of the booths are for sales people to meet with other sales people, and people who have the letter ‘C’ somewhere in their title to be concerned about things you’ll never understand. Booth displays are a plastic case with a few components in them. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some units running on a table somewhere.

This isn’t the case for all booths, though. The Linear booth wanted to demo some custom sensors, so they built the most primitive thermocouple in existence. It’s a piece of copper pipe and some barbed wire, brazed together. It won’t be an accurate thermocouple when the torch is still hot, but by calibrating it against a known temperatures and values, they can get pretty reliable temperature readings. Oh, the displays are Nixies.

Raspberries

raspberrypi_logo No, Raspberry Pi didn’t have a booth, but RS Components did, and this is where you could find Raspberries and Raspberry-related projects. I hun around the booth after [Eben] gave a talk, and this is what the future of the Raspberry Pi ecosystem will look like:

  • There will be no more form factor changes. Until the next hardware update, we’ll have the B+ and A+ form factor.
  • When is the next hardware update? Some time in 2017 or 2018. They don’t have a chip selected yet.
  • Four million units shipped. I told [Eben] the Commodore 64 shipped 25 Million, [Eben] told me [Jack Tramiel] was running his mouth when he said that. German tank problem with serial numbers and all that.
  • Lots of industrial applications. There are real, legitimate uses of a Pi in controlling million dollar machines.
  • No one has built a cluster of Pi compute modules. I believe the problem is finding vertical SO-DIMM connectors.

The latest from the FTDI display case

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Free Stuff

Show up at the end of Electronica, and you’ll quickly figure out the people at booths don’t want to ship their stuff home. This was the Hammond Enclosures booth:

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What did I grab? Just some Raspi cases, and one of the wooden Hammond enclosures used for tube amps. Also picked up a sample of unreleased Kailh switches for mechanical keyboards. Data coming sometime.

If someone is at the Munich airport in a few days, I might have a wooden Hammond enclosure for you.

Hackaday’s Most Excellent Munich Adventure

Bags are packed… it’s insane the amount of random electronics I carry with me on a trip. But who doesn’t want to do some prototyping on the plane?

In case you haven’t heard, the Hackaday Crew is headed to Munich. The coming week is Electronica. We’ll be prowling “the world’s leading trade show for electronic components” looking for the jewels of interest to the hacking community. Watch our Twitter feed for updates on those adventures.

But of course, Thursday the 13th is all about Hackaday Munich. The place will be packed! During the afternoon we feature hands-on hacking of embedded systems. The hardware we’re supplying is already spoken for. But you should bring along your own dev boards to hack on, or just come to watch the fun.

Get a ticket to The Hackaday Prize party. This includes a talk by [Sprite_TM], the announcement of the Grand Prize winner for the 2014 Hackaday Prize, followed by a party with music by [DJ Muallen]. Nobody should miss this event so please help get the word out. See you there!

Next Week in NYC: How the Age of Machine Consciousness is Transforming Our Lives

I’ve developed or have been involved with a number of imaging technologies, everything from DIY synthetic aperture radar, the MIT thru-wall radar, to the next generation of ultrasound imaging devices. Imagery is cool, but what the end-user often wants is some way by which to get an answer as opposed to viewing a reconstruction. So let’s figure that out.

We’re kicking-off a discussion on how to apply deep learning to more than just beating Jeopardy champions at their own game. We’d like to apply deep learning to hard data, to imagery. Is it possible to get the computer to accurately provide the diagnosis?

I helped to organize a seminar series/discussion panel in New York City on November 13th (you know, for those readers who are closer to New York than to Munich). This discussion panel includes David Ferrucci (the guy who lead the IBM Watson program), MIT Astrophysicist Max Tagmark, and the person who created genetic sequencing on a chip: Jonathan Rothberg.  As the vanguard of creativity and enthusiasm in everything technical we’d like the Hackaday community to join the conversation.

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SAINTCON Badge (Badge Hacking for Mortals)

[Josh] attended his first SAINTCON this weekend before last and had a great time participating in the badge hacking challenge.

The 2014 SAINTCON is only the second time that the conference has been open to the public. They give out conference badges which are just an unpopulated circuit board. This makes a lot of sense if you figure the number of people who actually hack their badges at conferences is fairly low. So he headed off to the hardware hacking village to solder on the components by hand — it’s an Arduino clone.

This is merely the start of the puzzle. We really like that the published badge resources include a crash course on how to read a schematic. The faq also attests that the staff won’t solder it for you and to get your microcontroller you have to trade in your security screw (nice touch). Once up and running you need to pull up the terminal on the chip and solve the puzzles in the firmware’s menu system. This continues with added hardware for each round: an IR receiver, thermistor, EEPROM, great stuff if you’re new to microcontrollers.

[Josh] mentions that this is nothing compared to the DEFCON badge. Badge hacking at DEFCON is **HARD**; and that’s good. It’s in the top-tier of security conferences and people who start the badge-solving journey expect the challenge. But if you’re not ready for that level of puzzle, DEFCON does have other activities like Darknet. That is somewhere in the same ballpark as the SAINTCON badge — much more friendly to those just beginning to developing their crypto and hardware hacking prowess. After all, everyone’s a beginner at some point. If that’s you quit making excuses and dig into something fun like this!

Hackaday Munich — Get Your Ticket Now!

If you’re anywhere remotely near Munich in November you’re not going to want to miss this. Hackaday is throwing our first European event! The fun runs from 12:30-23:30 on Thursday, November 13th, 2014.

Take the afternoon off of work

Tell your boss this is professional development, then grab all your hacking gear and head on down to Technikum at the Munich Kultfabrik.

Our set of workshops will test your embedded skills whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran. These include controlling small robots, working with audio processing from a Moog synth, reverse engineering some mystery hardware, and trying your hand at machine vision.

Try win the afternoon’s challenges. Implement the fastest and most reliable robot brain, design the best Moog synth add-on circuit. Or prove your logic skills by coding a perfect Computer Vision game solver. We’ll bring some prizes for those that show the most clever and impressive skill.

Take in the talks and learn the winner of The Hackaday Prize

Beginning at 19:00 we present a couple of talks about embedded hardware sure to impress the most discerning of hackers. Immediately following we will announce the Grand Prize winner of the 2014 Hackaday Prize. This Open Hardware build is the project that made it through more than 800 entries to secure a trip into space and eternal recognition from the Hackaday community.

Finish the day with a party

Finally, we’ll dim the lights and turn up the music for The Hackaday Prize Party. Enjoy some food and beverages, get yourself 3D scanned, try your hand at some vintage video games, and enjoy the company of the Hackaday Community. In attendance will be [Mike Szczys], [Brian Benchoff], [Aleksandar Bradic], [Jasmine Brackett], and [Ben Delarre].

We’ll see you there!