Hamvention 2015, Less Than One Week Away!

The largest amateur radio and electronics swap meet on the planet is less than one week away.  Will you be there?

The Dayton Hamvention has been an annual swap meet since 1952.  There were 24,873 attendees during last year’s hamvention alone, that is a huge number of radio enthusiasts in one place!

For those of you interested in using vintage and used test equipment you can find anything at Hamvention.  I built my entire laboratory form equipment purchased here.   It has often been said, ‘if you can’t find it at Hamvention you don’t need it.’

This year Scott Pastor (KC8KBK) and I will be covering Hamvention for Hackaday.  We plan to provide one update after each day of Hamvention summarizing the day’s events.  We hope to see you in Dayton next week!

Two Saturdays of Fun with Hackaday

Shake off the work week with Hackaday. Tomorrow we kick off Hackaday Prize Worldwide: LA. This is a Zero to Product workshop, a meetup, and a free build day. The workshop and build sessions are full-full-full but you can still get in on social hour Saturday night. Please send us your RSVP. Full details on the weekend’s festivities are on our event page on Hackaday.io.

2nd Annual Bay Area Maker Faire Meetup

There are a ton of cool people descending on the Bay Area for Maker Faire in about a week, are you one of them? If so, join us at O’Neil’s for our second annual meetup! We’ll belly up to the bar starting at 7pm on the 16th. There will be several of the Hackaday crew there and we’re bring swag along with us. But the real attraction is all of the great hackers who show up. To get on the guest list you simply need to tell us you’re coming.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Safety Belt Holds Up Pants and Passwords

[Dan Williams] built a belt that holds up your pants while remembering your passwords. This was his project while camped out at the Hackaday Hardware Villiage at the 2015 TC Disrupt Hackathon last weekend.

safety-belt-pcb-sandwichThe idea started with the concept of a dedicated device to carry a complicated password; something that you couldn’t remember yourself and would be difficult to type. [Dan] also decided it would be much better if the device didn’t need its own power source, and if the user interface was dead simple. The answer was a wrist-band made up of a USB cable and a microcontroller with just one button.

To the right you can see the guts of the prototype. He is using a Teensy 2.0 board, which is capable of enumerating as an HID keyboard. The only user input is the button seen at the top. Press it once and it fires off the stored password. Yes, very simple to implement, but programming is just one part of a competition. The rest of his time was spent refining it into what could reasonably be considered a product. He did such a good job of it that he received an Honorable Mention from Hackaday to recognize his execution on the build.

Fabrication

IMG_20150502_183207[Dan] came up with the idea to have a pair of mating boards for the Teensy 2.0. One on top hosts the button, the other on the bottom has a USB port which is used as the “clasp” of the belt buckle. One side of the USB cable plugs into the Teensy, the other into this dummy-port. Early testing showed that this was too bulky to work as a bracelet. But [Dan] simply pivoted and turned it into a belt.

safety-belt-built-at-hackathon-thumb[Kenji Larsen] helped [Dan] with the PCB-sandwich. Instead of mounting pin sockets on the extra boards, they heated up the solder joints on a few of the Teensy pins and pushed them through with some pliers. This left a few pins sticking up above the board to which the button add-on board could be soldered.

To finish out the build, [Dan] worked with [Chris Gammell] to model a 2-part case for the electronics. He also came up with a pandering belt buckle which is also a button-cap. It’s 3D printed with the TechCrunch logo slightly recessed. He then filled this recess with blue painter’s tape for a nice contrast.

[Dan] on-stage presentation shows off the high-level of refinement. There’s not a single wire (excluding the USB belt cable) or unfinished part showing! Since he didn’t get much into the guts of the build during the live presentation we made sure to seek him out afterward and record a hardware walk through which is embedded below.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

TechCrunch Disrupt: Charging A Phone With Its Own Transmitter

TechCrunch Disrupt is on this week, and that means we get to see which members of tech media don’t understand basic physics. So far, it’s writers from Engadget, The Mirror, Business Insider, TechCrunch, and four judges on the TC Disrupt stage. What is the consequence of not understanding the implications of the conservation of energy? Glowing support for a cell phone that can charge itself.

The offending Disrupt startup is Nikola Labs, and they’re gearing up to launch a Kickstarter for a very special iPhone 6 case. This case uses small, energy-harvesting antennas to gather RF energy from the cellphone tucked away in this case. This energy is then sent to a rectifier where it is converted into something the Apple Lightning connector can sip power from. According to Nikola Labs, this RF harvesting antenna takes energy from the transmissions of the iPhone 6 entombed in this case, converts it to about 5 Volts, and uses that to charge the iPhone battery.

I know that seems difficult to understand, so here’s a simple analogy: you have a flashlight with a battery and a solar cell. The solar cell recharges the battery. If this were a Nikola Labs flashlight, you would recharge it by shining the flashlight onto the solar cell.

That is the simplest explanation of what the Nikola Labs cellphone case does, and illuminates the limitations of what it can do. If the ‘energy harvesting circuit’ collects power from the device it is recharging, it will reduce the transmission power of whatever is transmitting. With the cellphone case, you’re spending transmission power (plus efficiency losses) to recharge the battery. That means poorer reception and fewer bars. In the solar-recharging flashlight analogy, the flashlight would either be dimmer, or you could only use it part of the time.

It’s also why Nikola Labs claims their case will only recover 30% of the battery life of an iPhone 6; the battery isn’t solely dedicated to a transmitter – there’s a display and a CPU to account for in the power budget.

To Nikola Labs’ credit, this is at least a novel application of the RF energy harvesting trope that has been making its way around Kickstarter and tech blogs for a few years. Nearly every other RF harvesting idea that has been pitched in recent memory decouples the transmitter (or ‘generator’, I guess) with the product or receiver. The square cube law is an evil mistress, and if you’re wondering why these devices don’t work, [ch00f], a guy with an actual engineering degree, has a great writeup of one of these products over on Drop Kicker.

The Nikola Labs cellphone case bucks this trend by looking at the shortcomings of these devices; an RF rechargeable Bluetooth tag won’t work if you place it a foot away from a WiFi router, but it just might if you tape it to the antenna. This is the idea behind Nikola Labs’ invention: harvest energy from a few millimeters away from the cell phone’s antenna. According to Nikola Labs, their engineer, [Chi-Chih Chen] has a patent in the works for this. This patent application has not been published yet.

In theory, the Nikola Labs cellphone case will actually recharge your battery, but at a price: you’d be wasting your transmission power on recharging the battery. It’s a false economy that you’ll be able to fund on Kickstarter next month for $100 USD. If you’re only looking for more battery life, walk into any gas station, buy a $10 USB power bank/battery, and have enough portable power to recharge your iPhone battery to 100%. That’s not a sexy solution, it doesn’t reference [Nikola Tesla], and it’s not snake oil that tech media is lapping up like dogs. Pity.

[Kenji Larsen] Shows off the Ultimate Hacking Kit

If you roll into a hardware hackathon empty-handed, you’re going to be at a disadvantage compared to those who bring equipment with which they’re already familiar. Pray that you never roll into one where [Kenji Larsen] is your competitor. Luckily, this weekend he came out to mentor for Hackaday’s hardware hacking village at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon and not as a competitor. In this video he shows off the huge rollerbag which he calls his “Hack Pack”. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance his travel setup is better than your home lab.

Where do I begin (seriously, watch the video)? Perhaps best to note is how organized he is. For instance, the large plastic bag containing his battery-operated and plug-in Dremels also has conveniently sized stock like acrylic and metal. There are compartment boxes full of sensors, others contain things like passives, batteries, battery chargers, hundreds of Moteino modules, handfuls of BeagleBones Black, breakout and dev boards of every flavor. He has all the necessary tools like hemostat, x-acto blade, steel ruler, and magnifying glasses. There’s even a 3D printer in the bag — a Printrbot Simple which [Chris Gammell] played with all weekend err… learned to use as part of his role as a mentor.

We had a ton of hardware along with us, but time and again [Kenji] was there for the save on some of the less-common needs. He’s a expert when it comes to fabrication techniques and it showed. We also give him mad points for staying up overnight for all 20-hours of the build session. Thank you so much [Kenji], I think I speak for every one of the hardware hackers when I say you helped bring the event to the next level of exhilarating and exhausting fun. Please direct your own thanks, stories, and well-wishes, and follows to [Kenji’s] hacker profile.

If you weren’t able to make it to NYC this weekend, you definitely missed out. We’ll be telling the story of that all week. Those on the West Coast will have a chance next weekend at Hackaday Prize Worldwide: LA. The workshop is sold out but socializing on Saturday, and a Sunday free-build are both still available for RSVPs.

Weekend Proves Hardware Wins Hackathons

Teams hacking on hardware won big this weekend in New York. There were ten teams that answered Hackaday’s call as we hosted the first ever hardware hackathon at the Tech Crunch Disrupt NYC. These teams were thrown into the mix with all of the software hackers TC was hosting and rose to the top. Eight out of our ten teams won!

As we suspected, having something physical to show off is a huge bonus compared to those showing apps and webpages alone. Recipe for awesome: Mix in the huge talent pool brought by the hardware hackers participating, then season with a dash of experience from mentors like [Kenji Larson], [Johngineer], [Bil Herd], [Chris Gammell], and many more.

Out of over 100 teams, first runner-up went to PicoRico, which built a data collection system for the suspension of a mountain bike. The Twillio prize went to Stove Top Sensor for Paranoid, Stubburn Older Parents which adds cellphone and web connectivity to the stove, letting you check if you remembered to turn off the burns. The charismatic duo of fifteen-year-olds [Kristopher] and [Ilan] stole the show with their demonstration of Follow Plants which gives your produce a social media presence which you can then follow.

We recorded video and got the gritty details from everyone building hardware during the 20-hour frenzy. We’ll be sharing those stories throughout the week so make sure to check back!

Vintage Computer Festival Europa 16.0: The Hackaday Report

The 16th annual Vintage Computer Festival Europa (VCFe) is still ongoing this weekend in Munich, and of course Hackaday had to swing by. If you’re anywhere in Germany, you’ve still got until Sunday at 16:30 to check it out.

DSCF7896The theme for this year’s festival is “The East is Red Colorful” and that means vintage computers from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Here in (West) Germany, that naturally means a good representation of computers from the former Democratic Republic of Germany (DDR), but Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and of course Russia were also in the house. There was far too much going on to cover it all, but here’s a few of the projects and computers that caught our eye.

Continue reading “Vintage Computer Festival Europa 16.0: The Hackaday Report”