Part of the job of a Hackaday writer involves seeking out new stories to write for your delectation and edification. Our tips line provides a fruitful fount of interesting things to write about, but we’d miss so much if we restricted ourselves to only writing up stories from that source. Each of us writers will therefore have a list of favourite places to keep an eye on and catch new stuff as it appears. News sites, blogs, videos, forums, that kind of thing. In my case I hope I’m not giving away too much to my colleagues when I say I keep an eye on the activities of as many hackspaces as I can.
So aside from picking up the occasional gem for these pages there is something else I gain that is of great personal interest as a director of my local hackspace. I see how a lot of other spaces approach the web, and can couple it to my behind-the-scenes view of doing the same thing here in our space. Along the way due to both experiences I’ve begun to despair slightly at the way our movement approaches the dissemination of information, the web, and software in general. So here follows a highly personal treatise on the subject that probably skirts the edge of outright ranting but within which I hope you’ll see parallels in your own spaces.
Before continuing it’s worth for a moment considering why a hackspace needs a public website. What is its purpose, who are its audience, and what information does it need to have?
PCB etching seems to be a subject that sharply divides our community into those who are experts in it and etch themselves every PCB they use, and those who have significant quantities of ferric chloride stained clothing in their past and for whom the advent of cheap commercial PCB manufacture and CNC milled PCB prototyping have been the best thing since sliced bread.
Your likely success when etching your own boards is most dependent on the quality of your preparation and your equipment. If you began your PCB career with etch-resist transfers and a permanent marker with a Tupperware tub of etchant, then later progressed to laser toner or photographic masking and a bubble etcher, you’ll understand this.
[Jan Henrik] has drawn our attention to his very nicely built PCB etching suite (Translation, German original) at the Warpzone hackerspace (Translation, German original) in Münster, Germany. The foil pattern is printed on transparency and exposed to UV light over a photoresist coated board with a vacuum pump arrangement to ensure as good a contact as possible to the board for the sharpest result. They have two exposers, one for single sided and the other for double-sided boards, both are very well-built from what looks like plywood.
The attention to detail continues with a home-made magnetic stirrer and heated bubble etching tank Their etchant of choice is sodium persulphate, so there are none of those brown ferric chloride stains.
PCB etching is nothing new, indeed we have covered the subject extensively over the years. But we think you’ll agree, if you’re going to etch your own PCBs you should have as good a set-up as you can, and Warpzone’s PCB suite is rather well put together. Those of us in spaces with lesser facilities should be getting ideas from it.
The Hack42 Hackerspace in Arnhem, Netherlands is one of the best hackerspaces we’ve ever seen. After taking over a decommissioned military base, the Hack42 crew has filled a compound rimmed with razor wire with eclectic gizmos, tools, and a community that keeps growing the space. At this year’s EMF camp, Hack42 member [jos] laid out his plan to found the ultimate Hackerspace. He’s going to put a hackerspace in prison to create the ultimate hacker village, a monument to technomancy, and an anti-panopticon panopticon.
[jos] recently noticed a very large, very old prison — currently used to house refugees — went up for sale. This prison, located in downtown Arnhem, Netherlands is a panopticon, a concept for prisons popularized in the 1800s, with most designs based on a circular structure with prison cells along the diameter around the circumference and a guard house in the center. This gigantic building is 55 meters (180 feet) in diameter, and 46 meters (150 feet) tall at its highest point. This gigantic prison dome could contain the White House inside its walls, a few blue whales, and could almost fit a space shuttle stack under the dome (the orbiter itself would fit just fine if there were a door).
The ambitious vision for this prison-come-hackerspace is a permanent venue not unlike other hackercamps where hackers can stay for weeks or months to build a project, a venue for like-minded people to meet up, and a place for students to do graduation projects under the wings of academic leadership. A community is one thing, but this former prison would also be the largest hackerspace by enclosed volume, opening it up to some very cool, very large builds. Inter-office quadcopter mail was mentioned in the talk.
[jos] is looking for comments, ideas, and remarks via this Google form to, “convince the money-people to fork over the funds.” If you’ve ever wanted to contribute to something big, this is your chance.
There are many ways to take an electrical audio signal and turn it into something you can hear. Moving coil speakers, plasma domes, electrostatic speakers, piezo horns, the list goes on. Last week at the Electromagnetic Field festival in the UK, we encountered another we hadn’t experienced directly before. Bite on a brass rod (sheathed in a drinking straw for hygiene), hear music.
This was Skull Radio, a bone conduction speaker courtesy of [Tdr], one of our friends from TOG hackerspace in Dublin, and its simplicity hid a rather surprising performance. A small DC motor has its shaft connected to a piece of rod, and a small audio power amplifier drives the motor. Nothing is audible until you bite on the rod, and then you can hear the music. The bones of your skull are conducting it directly to your inner ear, without an airborne sound wave in sight.
The resulting experience is a sonic cathedral from lips of etherial sibilance, a wider soft palate soundstage broadened by a tongue of bass and masticated by a driving treble overlaid with a toothy resonance before spitting out a dynamic oral texture. You’ll go back to your hi-fi after listening to [Tdr]’s Skull Radio, but you’ll know you’ll never equal its unique sound.
(If you are not the kind of audiophile who spends $1000 on a USB cable, the last paragraph means you bite on it, you hear music, and it sounds not quite as bad as you might expect.)
The folks at Swindon Makerspace took possession of a new space a few months ago after a long time in temporary accommodation. They’ve made impressive progress making it their own, and are the envy of their neighbours.
A small part of the new space is a temperature logger, and it’s one whose construction they’ve detailed on their website. It’s a simple piece of hardware based around a Dallas DS18B20 1-wire temperature sensor and an ESP8266 module, powered by 3 AA batteries and passing its data to data.sparkfun.com. The PCB was created using the space’s CNC router, and the surface-mount components were hand-soldered. The whole thing is dwarfed by its battery box, and will eventually be housed in its own 3D printed case. Sadly they’ve not posted the files, though it’s a simple enough circuit that’s widely used, it looks similar to this one with the addition of a voltage regulator.
The device itself isn’t really the point here though, instead it serves here to highlight the role of a typical small hackspace in bringing simple custom electronic and other prototyping services to the grass roots of our community. Large city hackspaces with hundreds of members will have had the resources to create the space program of a small country for years, but makers in provincial towns like Swindon – even with their strong engineering heritage – have faced an uphill struggle to accumulate the members and resources to get under way.
So to the wider world it’s a simple temperature logger but it really represents more than that — another town now has a thriving and sustainable makerspace. Could your town do the same?
One of the installations that consistently drew a large crowd after dark at EMF Camp 2016 was a game. This wasn’t a conventional computer game though, instead it was a line of gas jets along which a pair of players had to bat a jet of flame between them at ever-increasing speed until one player missed the return. This was the Fire Pong game created by members of Nottingham Hackspace, and though there seems to have been no online write-up of it as yet they have posted enough pictures of its build for us to deduce something of its construction.
If you will excuse the quality constraints of a mobile phone camera in a darkened field, a video of the game in action is below the break. There was a significant queue for a turn at the bat, this was one of the event’s more popular night-time attractions.
It’s frustrating, the reluctance of some of my fellow hackspace members to put the cordless drill battery back in the charger after use. As this is being written I’ve just coaxed enough energy from the drill to make a few holes in a piece of PVC pipe that will form part of an improvised flagpole, and upon that pole will hang Hackaday’s Jolly Wrencher flag at this weekend’s EMF Camp. We’re sharing a village with Oxford Hackspace, and as both your Hackaday scribe and an OxHack member the last week has been a little busy.
In theory it’s a simple enough process, getting a hackspace and all its assorted accoutrements down to Guildford. Three or four members’ cars will be loaded to the gunwales and will set off in good time to have everything under way without still desperately getting ready when the fun begins. In practice it’s been a procession of narrowly averted disasters, from the gazebo someone bought at auction turning out to have five walls and no roof, to the large ball that forms an essential part of one of the projects OxHack will be featuring being a buy-while-stocks-last remaindered product from last years Argos catalogue that only certain stores seem to still have.
We’ll be on the border between camping areas A and B, next to our friends from the Netherlands. I’m told that this location was requested due to likely proximity to a source of stroopwafels. If you come along on Friday between 6 and 8 PM we’re holding the Tindie bring-a-hack event, at which we’ll be inviting attendees to bring along their hacks to share with the masses. All projects are welcome, but if you have a Hackaday Prize entry, a Hackaday.io project or a Tindie item we’d especially love to see you. My colleague Jasmine assures me that there will be a limited amount of Hackaday and Tindie swag on offer.
If you’re going down to EMF Camp this weekend then please drop by and have a chat if you’re passing our village. Otherwise you’ll probably encounter us on our travels as we try to seek out the interesting projects and hacks to feature on these pages. We hope the British weather doesn’t deliver any unpleasant surprises, and may all your projects work when you demonstrate them in front of the masses!
Jenny List is a director of Oxford Hackspace when she is not writing for Hackaday.