The Open, Hackable Electronic Conference Badge

Electronic conference badges have been around for at least a decade now, and they all have the same faults. They’re really only meant to be used for a few days, conference organizers and attendees expect the badge to be cheap, and because of the nature of a conference badge, the code just works, and documentation is sparse.  Surely there’s a better way.

Enter the Hackable Electronic Badge. Ever since Parallax started building electronic conference badges for DEF CON, they’ve gotten a lot of requests to build badges for other conventions. Producing tens of thousands of badges makes Parallax the go-to people for your conference badge needs, but the requests for badges are always constrained by schedules that are too short, price expectations that are too low, and volumes that are unknown.

There’s a market out there for electronic conference badges, and this is Parallax’s solution to a recurring problem. They’re building a badge for all conferences, and a platform that can be (relatively) easily modified while still retaining all its core functionality.

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CCC 2015: Moon Robots, Data Destruction, and an Epic Thunderstorm

Chaos Communication Camp 2015 is over, and most everyone’s returned home to warmer showers and slower Internet. In this last transmission from Camp 2015, we’ll cover the final two days of talks, the epic thunderstorm, and give a brief rundown of the challenges of networking up a rural park in Brandenburg.

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Lessons From The Fablab Masters

I spent some time recently at the Fab11 conference, a gathering of the people behind the Fab Labs that are springing up all over the world, where entrepreneurs, hackers and the curious can learn about making things. So, it was no surprise that this was a great place to pick up some tips on designing, building and hacking things. Here are a few of the lessons I picked up at this fascinating gathering of the fabbers.

Build Quickly

If you can make something in an hour, you’ll make it better in a day

said [Joris Van Tubergen]. He knows something about making unusual things because he 3D printed a full-sized Elephant. To do this, he worked out how to hack the Ultimaker 2 3D printer to print to an unlimited Z height by flipping the printer upside down and moving the Z motor to lift the printer rather than the print head. With a few tweaks to the software, he could then print full-height elephant slices to speed up the process. He is absolutely right: while it is tempting to endlessly fiddle with a concept on paper, you learn more by building a prototype, even if it doesn’t work.

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Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Badges, Talks, and Culture

The Rad1o Badge

The rad1o badge is this great standalone HackRF clone, and great hardware hacking platform. On Day Two and most of Day Three, people were divided largely into two camps: those simply having fun with GNURadio and the software-defined radio (SDR) side of things, and those modifying and adding to the rad1o firmware to get the various peripherals up and working or simply make sweet animations.


On the evening on Day Three, this all changed. [iggy] managed to get the HackRF PortaPack library ported over to the rad1o badge. We’re excited about this code because it lets the radio and microcontroller sides of the badge work together, and that means things like a standalone SDR radio sniffer with waterfall plot (pictured here picking up WiFi and Bluetooth signals) is feasible. Using the badge as a standalone transmit and receive platform can’t be far away. Things are starting to get really cool with the rad1o, and there’s still two days of camp left.

Meanwhile, on the SDR front, there was a packed house at the GNURadio workshop last night, and there’s going to be a repeat on Sunday since it was so popular. The Munich CCC has a great SDR scavenger hunt going on currently, and [Sec] and [Schneider] from Munich gave their talk on eavesdropping on the Iridium satellite pager system with a twist at the end: a live demo of decoding the pager’s beacon signals inside the tent, run on custom software and the rad1o badge.


We attended Internet Archive’s talk on how they’re getting along. If you don’t know the IA, they run the Wayback Machine, have preserved a bunch of old-school video games, and are currently running a large-scale book-scanning project. High points of the talk include the story of their legal self-defense against an intrusive National Security Letter, and the background of their workaround that lets them loan out books even when they’re still under copyright.

At the same time, [Will Scott] gave a talk on open proxies. Thanks to the saved talks, we watched both. A lot of computers out there (accidentally or otherwise) allow people to proxy their data

[Lieven Standaert]’s talk on prototyping is a great summary of a bunch of tricks and tips that he’s learned by shepherding students through some fairly ambitious design projects. He’s got a complete lab with CNC mill, laser cutter, and 3D printer and the focus of the talk is on how to use these various tools together most efficiently, playing to each of their various strong suits.

shot0001[Tarek Loubani] gave an inspirational talk “3D Printing High-Quality Low-Cost Free Medical Hardware“. Basically, he looked into stethoscope designs, and re-engineered a 3D printable version. All of the tech in stethoscopes is in the housing design and its shape, and they’re relatively expensive, so it’s a fantastic low-hanging fruit. Watch the talk if you’re thinking about doing some good with your 3D printer. (Not that printing out owls with top hats isn’t important for the world…)

If you’re looking to upgrade your DIY electronics manufacturing capabilities, [hunz]’s talk on “Pushing the Limits of DIY Electronics” is worth a look. As the cool parts get smaller, the DIYer faces a number of new challenges, from thin traces to reflow soldering of BGA parts. A great tip: some board houses offer free SMD solder stencils, and it can be easily worth it to order up a single-sided PCB from them just to get the stencil. He also got into the design side of DIY manufacture, including a discussion of transmission lines that we found helpful.

Here are two more talks that we probably don’t need to tell you are cool: space hacking and combat robots. Need we say more? Both talks are introductory and general, and if what you need is a little encouragement to get involved, you’ll find it here.

Life in Camp: Kids and the Lake

OK, we’re not going to lie: it got hot over the last two days. Like, really hot. One of the nicest features of camp life, then, is the lake (or the lakes, because there’s another one just outside the camp that’s larger and a bit less popular). If you’ve already caught up on your sleep, and your hacking projects are in a good place, or if it’s just too hot to work, nothing beats a dip in the cool water. Heck, even if you’ve got hacking to do, take a swim break for an hour. After all, that’s what makes Camp special.

IMG_20150815_145833Finally, we were surprised how kid-friendly Camp has become this time around. The accommodations for the still-too-young-to-hack are pretty amazing. From a petting zoo to a gigantic Lego-filled tent, to the nearly full schedule of finger painting and kiddie arts-and-crafts, you’d have almost as much to do at Camp if you were five as if you were twenty-five. Time passes, and even hackers don’t stay young forever, and it’s fantastic to see the community taking care of the next generation. Plus, the kids seem to love it.

Going On

Again, with so many things going on at Camp, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Look through the archived talks and see what strikes your fancy. If you find something you like, post up in the comments.

Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Dispatch from Day One

There’s been too much to do here at the Chaos Communication Camp — the Quadrennial outdoor meeting of hackers. Between talks and projects and workshops, there’s hardly been a minute to sit down and write up a summary.  Nonetheless, I’ve sat in on a few talks.  Here’s a quick overview of some of what happened on Day One, and a little look behind the scenes into what makes a 5,000-person hacker camp work.

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Closing out DEF CON 23

We had a wild time at DEF CON last week. Here’s a look back on everything that happened.

defcon-23-hackday-breakfast-thumbFor us, the festivities closed out with a Hackaday Breakfast Meetup on Sunday morning. Usually we’d find a bar and have people congregate in the evening but there are so many parties at this conference (official and unofficial) that we didn’t want people to have to choose between them. Instead, we made people shake off the hangover and get out of bed in time for the 10:30am event.

We had a great group show up and many of them brought hardware with them. [TrueControl] spilled all the beans about the hardware and software design of this year’s Whiskey Pirate badge. This was by far my favorite unofficial badge of the conference… I made a post covering all the badges I could find over the weekend.

We had about thirty people roll through and many of them stayed for two hours. A big thanks to Supplyframe, Hackaday’s parent company, for picking up the breakfast check and for making trips like this possible for the Hackaday crew.

Hat Hacking

For DEF CON 22 I built a hat that scrolls messages and also serves as a simple WiFi-based crypto game. Log onto the access point and try to load any webpage and you’ll be greeted with the scoreboard shown above. Crack any of the hashes and you can log into the hat, put your name on the scoreboard, and make the hat say anything you want.

Last year only one person hacked the hat, this year there were 7 names on the scoreboard for a total of 22 cracked hashes. Nice work!

  • erich_jjyaco_cpp    16 Accounts
  • UniversityOfAriz     1 Account
  • @badgerops             1 Account
  • conorpp_VT             1 Account
  • C0D3X Pwnd you    1 Account
  • D0ubleN                   1 Account
  • erichahn525_VTe     1 Account

Three of these hackers talked to me, the other four were covert about their hat hacking. The top scorer used a shell script to automate logging-in with the cracked passwords and putting his name on the scoreboard.

I’d really like to change it up next year. Perhaps three hats worn by three people who involves some type of 3-part key to add different challenges to this. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them below, or as comments on the project page.

[Eric Evenchick] on socketCAN

eric-evenchick-socketCAN-defcon-23-croppedOne of the “village” talks that I really enjoyed was from [Eric Evenchick]. He’s been a writer here for a few years, but his serious engineering life is gobbling up more and more of his time — good for him!

You probably remember the CANtact tool he built to bring car hacking into Open Source. Since then he’s been all over the place giving talks about it. This includes Blackhat Asia earlier in the year (here are the slides), and a talk at BlackHat a few days before DEF CON.

This village talk wasn’t the same as those, instead he focused on showing what socketCAN is capable of and how you might use it in your own hacking. This is an open source software suite that is in the Linux repos. It provides a range of tools that let you listen in on CAN packets, record them, and send them out to your own car. It was great to hear [Eric] rattle off examples of when each would be useful.

Our Posts from DEF CON 23

If you missed any of them, here’s our coverage from the conference. We had a blast and are looking forward to seeing everyone there next year!

Chaos Communication Camp 2015 Teaser

It happens every four years in Germany. The days are at their longest and the summer heat’s penetrating. It’s time to break out the tent and go camping. But who wants to go camping in the wilderness, where there’s no Gigabit Ethernet and nobody to hack on projects with? Much better to attend the Chaos Communications Camp 2015 with 5,000 other nerds. And Hackaday will be there!

If you’ve never been to a Chaos Camp, it’s an amazing experience. It’s like a DIY version of DEF CON, except that it takes place in tents in the countryside outside Berlin instead of gambling-themed hotels in the dry, dusty desert. There’s a lot more emphasis on actually doing stuff while at camp. (It’s meant to be a vacation, after all.) Indeed, presentations are shut down in the middle of the day for three and a half hours to give people time to hack and interact.



Have a look at the list of projects, events, sessions, villages, or talks to get a feeling of scale, and bear in mind that a lot of the most interesting activities are often unofficial: people getting together to work on stuff. There’s plenty of inspiration and room for cooperation to go around.

Like many cons these days, the badge itself will doubtless serve as at least one such source of inspiration, and the 2015 Camp’s badge is awesome. It’s essentially a HackRF One with an LPC4300 ARM Cortex M4 micro, large flash memory, USB, battery, audio, and an LCD screen on-board. Add an antenna and you’ve got an insanely versatile standalone radio hacking platform. We’re digging through the docs in anticipation. So expect some to see a bunch of SDR and RF hacks in the next few months as 5,000 hackers get these in their hands.

If you can’t make it (tickets have been sold out for a while now), you can check out the live streams. Not only will the talks be shown as they happen, but in keeping with the democratic ethos of the CCC, anyone who can set up an icecast server can set up their own stream.

And of course, we’ll be there reporting on as much as we can. If anything strikes your fancy and you’d like us to check it out for you, post up in the comments here. We can’t promise the impossible, but we’ll try. And if you’re going to camp as well, keep an eye out for Elliot and say Hi.