Two years ago we headed off to the Bay Area Maker Faire and thought we’d invite friends and acquaintances to congregate at a bar on Saturday night. Anyone who’s been to the Faire (or been through a harrowing weekend of working a booth) knows that a bar stool and frothy beverage are a great way to recuperate. The turnout was amazing, we easily filled up O’Neill’s Irish Pub with that first meetup, and the Hackaday BAMF Meetup was born. Last year we packed it to the seams. This year we’re planning for an even bigger turnout that will go late into the evening.
I’ve only ever heard one complaint about this event; the band is too loud. This year O’Neill’s doesn’t have a band lined up so everything seems to be coming up roses. Come hang out with us! If you RSVP we’ll buy your first beer. Bring your stories, your easily transported hacks to show off, and have fun with the eclectic and enthralling community that turns out for this, the greatest meetup on earth.
Hackaday Letter from the Editors
If this is the first you’ve heard about this year’s meetup, you should subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Every week, a Hackaday Editor writes about what’s been going on that week, and shares a few of the most interesting posts from the past seven days. You can sign up for it in the sidebar to the right or with that signup link I just shared. If you’d like to know what you’re getting yourself into, here’s the most recent newsletter which we sent out on Friday. It’s a mini Hackaday delivered to your mailbox.
Saturday was the first Madison Mini Maker Faire. In this case, it’s Madison, Wisconsin (sorry Madison, SD I didn’t mean to get your hopes up) where I live. Of course I’m not the only crazy hardware hacker in the area. As soon as I got there I almost tripped over Ben Heckendorn who also lives in the area.
Check out that incredible Giant Game Boy the he was exhibiting. Okay, you think to yourself: Raspberry Pi and an LCD. Wrong! He’s actually using an FPGA to drive the LCD. Even cooler, it’s using an original Game Boy brain board, which the FPGA is connected to in order to translate the handheld’s LCD connector signals to work with the big LCD.
There are a few interesting Hackaday gatherings going on next weekend. The first is the Bay Area Maker Faire. Most of the Hackaday and Tindie crew will be in San Mateo next weekend, and we’re giving away free tickets to the Faire – a $70 value, free to Hackaday readers. Hackaday is crashing a pub on Saturday night. There’s also a super-secret meetup on Sunday. Don’t tell anyone.
On the other side of the country, there’s an even better convention for people who build stuff.. It’s Hamvention, the largest amateur radio meetup in North America. I’m going to be there. Find me and pick up some Hackaday swag. I’ll be posting to the Hackaday Twitter all weekend.
The main purpose of my visit is to document the immense swap meet. There will be over a thousand vendors hocking their wares, from antique radios to gauges and other electronic paraphernalia. It is the biggest draw to Hamvention, and by every account I’ve heard, it’s impossible to look at everything.
It might be impossible to look at everything, but apparently I’ve very good at separating the wheat from the chaff at ham swaps. During my last visit to the W6TRW swap meet in Redondo Beach, I found an UltraSPARC laptop (!), and a wooden modem from the mid 60s. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it will be my job to document all the oddities of Hamvention.
Depending on how many people I meet at Hamvention, there might be a semi-official Hackaday get together after the show. The US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson would be cool, but Ihop or Denny’s would be far more realistic. Look for the guy in the Hackaday hoodie flying a Hackaday flag and he’ll give you some sweet stickers and swag.
There were a lot of very technical talks at Hackaday Belgrade. That’s no surprise, this is Hackaday after all. But every once in a while it’s good to lift our heads up from the bench, blow away some of the solder smoke, and remind ourselves of the reason that we’re working on the next cool project. Try to take in the big picture. Why are you hacking?
[Phoenix Perry] raised a lot of big-think points in her talk, and she’s definitely hacking in order to bring more women into the field and make the creation of technology more accessible to everyone. Lofty goals, and not a project that’s going to be finished up this weekend. But if you’re going to make a positive difference in the world through what you love to do, it’s good to dream big and keep the large goal on your mind.
[Phoenix] is an engineer by training, game-coder by avocation, and a teacher for all the right reasons. She’s led a number of great workshops around the intersection of art and technology: from physical controllers for self-coded games to interactive music synthesis devices disguised as room-sized geodesic domes. And she is the founder of the Code Liberation Foundation, a foundation aimed at teaching women technology through game coding. On one hand, she’s a hacker, but on the other she’s got her eyes on a larger social goal.
Our 2014 adventures were so much fun that it drove us to create our own hacking challenge in 2015 to cobble together a <$100 HF SSB transceiver (made in the USA for extra budget pressure), an ad-hoc antenna system, put this on the air, and make an out-of-state contact before the end of Hamvention using only parts and gear found at Hamvention. There’s no time to study manuals, antennas, EM theory, or vacuum tube circuitry. All you have are your whits, some basic tools, and all the Waffle House you can eat. But you have one thing on your side, the world’s largest collection of surplus electronics and radio junk in one place at one time. Can it be done?
If you’ve read through the comments on Hackaday, you’ve doubtless felt the fires of one of our classic flame-wars. Any project done with a 32-bit chip could have been done on something smaller and cheaper, if only the developer weren’t so lazy. And any project that’s squeezes the last cycles of performance out of an 8-bit processor could have been done faster and more appropriately with a 32-bit chip.
Of course, the reality for any given project is between these two comic-book extremes. There’s a range of capabilities in both camps. (And of course, there are 16-bit chips…) The 32-bit chips tend to have richer peripherals and run at higher speeds — anything you can do with an 8-bitter can be done with its fancier cousin. Conversely, comparatively few microcontroller applications outgrow even the cheapest 8-bitters out there. So, which to choose, and when?
Eight Bits are Great Bits
The case that [Mike] makes for an 8-bit microcontroller is that it’s masterable because it’s a limited playground. It’s a lot easier to get through the whole toolchain because it’s a lot shorter. In terms of debugging, there’s (often) a lot less that can go wrong, letting you learn the easy debugging lessons first before moving on to the truly devilish. You can understand the hardware peripherals because they’re limited.
And then there’s the datasheets. The datasheet for a chip like the Atmel ATMega168 is not something you’d want to print out, at around 660 pages long. But it’s complete. [Mike] contrasts with the STM32F405 which has a datasheet that’s only 200 pages long, but that’s just going over the functions in principle. To actually get down to the registers, you need to look at the programming manual, which is 1,731 pages long. (And that doesn’t even cover the various support libraries that you might want to use, which add even more to the documentation burden.) The point is, simpler is simpler. And if you’re getting started, simpler is better.
Kristina Kapanova is a PhD student at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Her research is taking her to simulations of quantum effects in semiconductor devices, but this field of study requires a supercomputer for billions of calculations. The college had a proper supercomputer, and was getting a new one, but for a while, Kristina and her fellow ramen-eating colleagues were without a big box of computing. To solve this problem, Kristina built her own supercomputer from off-the-shelf ARM boards.