The Future Doesn’t Need Another Internet-Connected Teddybear – Hackaday at SXSW Create

Hackaday happened to be at South by Southwest this year and visited SXSW Create – part of the festival dedicated to hackers, makers and DIY scene. While modest in size, this event serves as a great contrast to the internet-hype machine omnipresent everywhere else in the city during this time. So we thought we should drop by and show them some love.

sxsw-launchpad-croppedTrey German showed us a couple of great real-time power control demos using his C2000 Launch Pad as well as his Bluetooth Cooler which, for whatever reason, decided to fail on him just in time for the big show. The demo we have been looking forward to the most was a thermocouple-controlled barbecue using Energia framework but were disappointed to learn that The Man has banned grilling hotdogs in the tent. The universe was telling us we’re not here to party.

atx_hackerspace_TARDISATX Hackerspace had a large booth featuring the full-size replica of Doctor Who’s TARDIS (who wouldn’t like to have a picture taken in one ?) and a fully-functional 1930-es vacuum tube radio with a mandatory iPad dock. We have also learned that a massive collection of working vintage vacuum tubes has been donated to the hackerspace, so if you’re in need you know who to call.

The event has also featured a long list of industry participants. The product launch we were most impressed with was Easel by Inventables, an in-browser app that enables easy control of their Shapeoko CNC milling machine and definitely has the potential of bringing the joys of design and fabrication to much larger masses.

e_coli_ut_austin_experiment1However, the most interesting things we saw were the ones a bit outside of the current tech mainstream. [Dennis] from UT Austin iGEM team showed some of the crazy work the synthetic biologists are doing out there. They have engineered Escherichia coli so that it is addicted to caffeine, used cell growth as a measure of caffeine content in particular drinks, and used that to rank local Austin coffee shops! We have also talked with several guys working on automated gardens and soil sensors who were educating attendees about the huge potential that increased environmental data aggregation can have on the ways we grow food.

To quote the Growerbot guys : “We definitely have enough Internet-connected teddy bears. We need more Internet-connected tomato plants”.

Stick with us after the jump to see a gallery with all our adventures at 2014 SXSW.

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Next Weekend: The Midwest Reprap Festival

midwest

Guess what next weekend is? It’s the Midwest Reprap Festival, in Goshen, Indiana. We’ll also be there keeping tabs on an absurd amount of new RepRaps and other 3D printers, new filaments, and distributing a ludicrous amount of Hackaday swag.

The highlights of the fest include the folks from Lulzbot and UltiMachine, [Prusa] showing off his i3, [Nick Seward] and the WallySimpson, and Lisa RepRaps, and hundreds of other RepRappers showing off their latest projects and printers.

Here’s the best part: it’s all free! It would be cool if you register before making the trip out, but any way you look at it, it’ll be an awesome weekend. It’s also the largest US gathering of 3D printer aficionados that isn’t on the east or west coast.

DIY Electricity and Internet for Burning Man

bmPowerInet

Despite this being [Kenneth Finnegan's] first Burning Man, the guy came prepared and stayed connected by setting up a beefy electricity supply and a faint yet functional internet connection. If you saw [Kenneth's] Burning Man slideshow, you know that the desert is but a mild deterrent against power, water, and even temporary runways.

He borrowed a 20V 100W solar panel from Cal Poly and picked up a bargain-price TSMT-20A solar charge controller off eBay. The controller babysits the batteries by preventing both overcharging and over-discharging. The batteries—two Trojan-105 220Ah 6V behemoths—came limping out of a scissor lift on their last legs of life: a high internal resistance ruled out large current draws. Fortunately, the power demands were low, as the majority of devices were 12VDC or USB. [Kenneth] also had conveniently built this USB power strip earlier in the year, which he brought along to step down to 5VDC for USB charging.

Internet in the desert, however, was less reliable. A small team provides a microwave link from civilization every summer, which is shared via open access points in 3 different camps. [Kenneth] pointed his Ubiquiti NanoStation at the nearest one, which provided a host of inconvenient quirks and top speeds of 2-20kBps: enough, at least, to check emails.

Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos

Open Hardware Summit 2013

The 2013 Open Hardware Summit took place on September 6th at MIT. There was a wide array of demos and talks covering Open Hardware methodologies and projects. After the break I’ll be covering the demo area of the conference, and sharing some of my favorite demos.

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[Kenneth Finnegan's] EPIC Burning Man slideshow

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Whether or not you manged to attend this year’s Burning Man festival we’re dead certain you’ll enjoy reading [Kenneth Finnegan's] show and tell about the event. This was his first time attending. Aside from his noobish excitement (which is really the only way to approach writing something like this) we’d never know he wasn’t a seasoned veteran. From what he and friend [Marcel] packed along with them, to the attractions he visited, he did Burning Man right!

The two snapped a selfie in the truck on their way to Black Rock City, the community that sprouts up in the Nevada desert every year for Burning Man. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is a surprise in the middle of nowhere, but when you find out that BRC boasted about 68,000 residents this year it’s no wonder. [Kenneth] spends some time talking about the camp they set up, including more than enough solar power, and an amateur radio setup that came in handy in lieu of phone service. This flows into his collection of cool art he came across, most of it massive in scale. There’s even an airport, which is how he was able to snap the aerial photo above.

We think the coolest part of his recollection is the view of ‘city life’. There are night clubs, bowling alleys, radios stations broadcasting live interviews and hosting talk shows, cafés, and much more. Hanging out in the desert at the end of August may not sound like your thing, but reading about [Kenneth's] odyssey makes us think Burning Man is like Disneyland for Hackers.

Ottawa Mini Maker Faire

Ottawa Mini Maker Faire

The Ottawa Mini Maker Faire took place this past weekend at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. I was in town and decided to check it out. After the break, check out some of the projects that I saw at the Faire.

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Free Hackaday stuff at next week’s Open Hardware Summit

supply-frame-at-ohs-2013

If you’re headed off to the Open Hardware Summit next week we’ve got some free swag for you. Readers paying any attention know that Hackaday was acquired by Supply Frame over the summer. There had been some nervousness in the comments about what this all means. But I think you’ll agree it’s a good sign that Supply Frame is one of the major sponsors of the event at the ‘FANATIC’ level.

Several of the Supply Frame guys will be attending (which makes me jealous since I want one of those ePaper display badges so badly!). Details haven’t quite firmed up yet, but we believe there will be a Supply Frame booth were you can stop by, chat, and see if they’ve got any Hackaday T-shirts left to hand out.  I don’t think they’ll run out of stickers so you won’t go away empty handed.

Also ask them for a beta code for the hush-hush new online tool which they’ve been working on. I got a preview when I visited their headquarters in Pasadena last week. It’s something that EE and hobby electronics enthusiasts will appreciate as it simplifies the planning and part choosing process of a design. Actually, now that I think of it, it solves a problem I’ve heard [Dave Jones] rant about before on the Amp hour. Obviously I’m under a bit of an info embargo until they get the service fully online but I’m sure we’ll cover it once they do. Incidentally, one of the devs on this project — [Ben Delarre] — founded CircuitBee.

Our own [Eric Evenchick] will be on hand as well. He’s still networking for future employment so you might not find him just sitting at the SF booth. He will have Hackaday stickers to hand out as well since I felt bad about not sending swag along with him to Def Con. Look for his recollection of the event once it is all wrapped up.

Worry not if you can’t attend OHS. [Brian Benchoff] is planning a trip to World Maker Faire later in September and he’ll be packing a stash of freebies as well!