Show me the Data: Hackaday.io Year #01

Today marks exactly one year since we announced to the world the first product from our software lab – Hackaday.io. In what has been an incredibly exciting year for all of us, we evolved from a simple idea and a prototype to a truly massive community that’s making its mark on the world. Day after day, carefully listening to the invaluable feedback from our users, we have improved and moved forward, one line of code at the time.

We still have a long way to go, but we’ll pause for a second now and reflect on how far we’ve come. Then get right back to fixing bugs and developing new features.

It all started with a simple idea – building a better project hosting website. Though there are project and content websites galore out there, with new ones popping up every day, it all still felt too bland. We thought we could do better. After all, the medium is the message. The place where something lives sooner or later becomes a key part of its identity. So in order to prevent a dystopian future in which we’re all hosting our projects using the (fictional) Microsoft Maker Suite 2020 and simply don’t care, we started to work on providing an alternative.

We quickly realized that we had a much bigger mission on our hands. Sure, a better project hosting website would be nice, but what we felt we really needed was something [Brian Benchoff] has been talking about for quite some time – a “virtual hackerspace.” Not just a place where you can post your builds once you’re done (and hope someone sees it), but a living, breathing community: a place where you can start with an idea and get feedback as it develops, find collaborators, iterate, and ultimately end up building something way more amazing than you would have accomplished on your own.

This has been the aim of Hackaday for many years, but most of the collaboration was constrained to the limited space of post comment threads and biased by the editorial choice of articles and topics. With the introduction of Hackaday.io, we open up a space for anyone to unleash their creativity and expertise, and together, change the way people build things.

The Data

Unfortunately, making bold claims about how we’re out there changing the world is pretty much a commodity these days. As most Web startups can testify, it doesn’t take more than a simple landing page with nice photography and some uplifting message for any arbitrary claims to appear credible.

So instead of trying to convince you with words about how awesome the last year had been, we’ll just stick with the data.

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Logic Noise: 8-bits of Glorious Sounds

Logic Noise is all about using analog circuits to make sounds. Preferably sound that will be enjoyable to hear and useful for making music. Now, the difference between music, sound, and noise is certainly in the ear of the behearer, but you must admit that last installment’s simple square wave lacked a little something. (Although the sync oscillator circuit extension was kinda cool.)

This week, we’ll take our single wimpy square-wave oscillator and beef it up by adding a bunch of sub-octaves to the mix. And we’ll do it using a chip that’ll be really useful for us in the future as well: the 4040 binary counter chip.

Counters (binary or decimal) are going to be fertile ground for more musical noise experiments. Why so? Because octaves are just doublings or halvings of frequencies, and because a lot of rhythmic patterns have factors of two underlying them.  Just think about the most basic drum pattern you know: bass drum on the one, snare on one and three, and hi-hats on one, two, three, and four. Each different instrument fires off twice as frequently as the one before it.

But for now, enough blabber. We’ve got an oscillator to build.

Continue reading “Logic Noise: 8-bits of Glorious Sounds”

Why You Should Care About Software Defined Radio

It hasn’t become a household term yet, but Software-Defined Radio (SDR) is a major player on the developing technology front. Whether you’re building products for mass consumption, or just playing around for fun, SDR is worth knowing something about and I’ll prove it to you.

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Omnibus Seen in the Wild

February 9th has come and gone and the Hackaday Omnibus 2014 is now shipping. If you were one of the early adopters who pre-ordered, thank you very much it should be in your hands shortly! If you missed out on the Pre-Order, don’t worry you can still get a copy of your very own but we only ordered a small over-run so don’t wait too long.

The Omnibus celebrates the best our writers and illustrators published in 2014 with an 80-page full color volume printed on premium paper. From tales of technology past, to current events, the Omnibus tells the story of what the high points in hardware were last year. We have fallen in love with having a physical version of this content since the proof copies hit our hands a month ago. We believe that this is a conversation waiting to happen — set it out and watch your friends gravitate toward it.

We’ve already seen them popping up on Twitter and we’d love to see more. Make sure to Tweet a picture of your copy to @Hackaday with hashtag #hadOmnibus. We’re happy to see any pictures shared, but if you’re one of the lucky souls who works with awesome hardware make sure to take some ‘extreme’ shots. For instance, reading while you wait for the cyclotron to warm up, the nuclear sub to surface, or your ride to pick you up from Amundsen-Scott.

This is our first ever print edition and we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure it’s something you’ll be proud to have on your coffee table, bookshelf, or anywhere for years to come.

[Photos via @jbdatko, @JeremySCook, @rdcampbell13, @ToddTerrazas]

Caption CERN Contest Turns out Big Brains and Comic Brilliance

Week 1 of Hackaday’s Caption CERN Contest is complete. We have to say that the Hackaday.io users outdid themselves with funny captions but we also helped CERN add meaning to one of their orphan images. First a few of our favorite captions:

The Funnies:

If you adjust that scope again, when I haven’t touched the controls, I’m donating you to a city college. – [Johnny B. Goode]

SAFTEY FIRST – The proper way to test a 6kv power supply for ripple on the output. – [milestogoh]

Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius – R&D some years before the accident. – [jlbrian7]

The prize though, goes to Hackaday commenting superstar [DainBramage], who proved he knows us all too well with his Portal inspired caption:

Here we see Doug Rattmann, one of Aperture’s best and brightest, perfecting our neurotoxin prior to delivery.

Congrats [DainBramage], enjoy your shirt from The Hackaday Store!

The Meaning of the Image:

8106409Funny captions weren’t the only thing in the comments though – the image tickled [jlbrian7’s] memory and led to a link for CERN Love. A four-year old blog entry about robots at CERN turned out to be the key to unraveling the mystery of this captionless photo. The image depicts [Robert Horne] working with a prototype of the MANTIS system. MANTIS was a teleoperation manipulator system created to work in sections of the CERN facility which were unsafe for humans due to high levels of radioactivity. The MANTIS story is an epic hack itself, so keep your eyes peeled for a future article covering it! We’ve submitted the information to CERN, and we’re giving [jlbrian7] a T-shirt as well for his contribution to finding the actual caption for this image.

Get Started on Next Week:

The image for week 2 is already up, so head over and see for yourself. We’re eager for your clever captions. Ideally we can also figure out the backstory for each week’s randomly chosen image.

Hackaday.io Reaches 50,000 Registered Users

Hackaday.io, our neat project hosting site, has been around for a little more than a year. It’s been public for juuussst over 11 months, and today we’ve hit a milestone: we have over 50,000 hackers on board, documenting their builds and giving skulls for the cool projects they find. The lucky 50,000th hacker? This guy.

Over the past year, we’ve seen a ton of cool projects that have included a $300 pick and place machine, a very inexpensive machine vision camera system that’s also a very successful Kickstarter, the closest Hackaday ever get to a MOOC from a Cornell professor, and something that would be called the decapitron if it weren’t built by a NASA engineer.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without those 50,000 people on Hackaday.io. This one is for everybody out there who’s already registered. We have to give a shoutout to [Dave Darko], by far the most helpful guy on the entire site.  He has been a thorn in the side of the devs, giving us an amazing amount of feedback.

Speaking of devs, we’re going to be giving out a t-shirt and a few goodies for the 65,536th hacker to sign on (yes, an off-by-one error), for being the person who forced us to refactor everything. Considering the backroom planning, that shouldn’t be long. If you’re one of the nearly 200,000 unregistered users who visited over the last 30 days, there’s a tiny incentive to sign up.

I’ve come to bury Radio Shack, Not praise it.

This is a post that has been a long time coming. Today, Radio Shack, the store that has been everything from an excellent introduction to electronics and computers to a store that sells cell phones, cell phone accessories, and cell phone plans has declared bankruptcy.

To anyone, this should not be news. For the last decade, the public perception of Radio Shack was one of a shell of its former self. In 2007, The Onion famously published Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business, an article that like most of The Onion’s work, is a sand dune of grains of truth.

In recent years, Radio Shack has made attempts to appeal to the demographic that holds the ‘shack in such high regard. Just four short years ago, Radio Shack made an appeal to this community and asked for suggestions for what people would actually buy at Radio Shack. The answers ranged from Arduinos and larger component selections to Parallax Propellers. Even with this renewed focus on DIY, repair, electronic tinkering, and even in-house cellphone repair shops in some select locations, this was not enough.

This was a make or break year for Radio Shack. Last fall, Standard General, a hedge fund with an amazing name, attempted to refinance Radio Shack’s debt with specific revenue benchmarks set for the holiday season. These benchmarks were not met, and now Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy protection after reaching a deal to sell nearly 2,500 stores. Radio Shack now has about 5,000 stores in the U.S.. Half of them will close, and as many as 1,700 will be operated by Sprint. The future of Radio Shack was a cell phone store, it seems.

Right now, there are rumors of Radio Shack employees ‘released from service’, with mass closings of stores very, very soon.

There has always been a love-hate relationship with Radio Shack with the DIY and tinkerer community. It was everything from many programmer’s first introduction to computers, the only place in town you could buy [Forrest Mims]’ excellent books, to a horrible place to work, and an odd store where you need a phone number to buy batteries.

This is not a eulogy; Radio Shack isn’t quite dead just yet, and eulogies are reserved for the loved ones in our lives. Radio Shack is neither. We all have a rich history with Radio Shack, and next time you’re buying some resistors on Mouser or Digikey, just remember we’re living in a different world now.