SXSW Create: ATX Hackerspace Area

We had a wonderful time over the weekend at the 2015 SXSW Create. I was really excited to see that there was a very large area set aside for the Hackerspaces of the Austin area and they took full advantage of that. Most notably, ATX Hackerspace who had multiple tables and was drawing a huge crowd.

sxsw-atx-thereminThis table is a good example of the demonstrations on hand. Primarily It’s a collection of ultrasonic theremin. The classic theremin uses oscillator-based sound production (we’ve been running a series on that concept) with a set of antennas that uses your body’s proximity to tweak that signal. This version mimics the user interface but greatly simplifies the skillset needed to produce the instrument by swapping the antenna for an ultrasonic rangefinder and generating the audio digitally. The more astute viewer will have noticed the instrument being held. I neglected to ask about this but it sure looks like a Holophonor which is another great seed idea for your next project. Update: it’s a Hulusi.

sxsw-atx-solderingI do think it’s worth noting that ATX also set aside a lot of table-space for their members to actually work on building projects at the event. We’re big advocates of this rather than simply exhibiting finished projects. It doesn’t really matter what you’re working on; seeing a table covered with interesting parts and tools, being worked on by fun people obviously enjoy each other’s company is the core message of a Hackerspace… right?

I talk with [Gardner] about ATX in the video after the break, and make a quick loop around the display tables.

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Arduino v Arduino: Part II

Since our last article covering the Arduino v. Arduino case, we’ve received a couple of tips, done some more digging, and learned a lot more about what’s going on. We thought it was time to share the story with you as it develops.

The Players

In short, there are two companies calling themselves “Arduino” at the moment. One, Arduino LLC was founded by [Massimo Banzi], [David Cuartielles], [David Mellis], [Tom Igoe] and [Gianluca Martino] in 2009, runs the website arduino.cc, and has been directing and releasing the code that makes it all work. Most of these folks had been working together on what would become the Arduino project since as early as 2005.

The other “Arduino” used to be called Smart Projects and was the manufacturing arm of the project founded and run by [Gianluca Martino]. Smart Projects changed their name to Arduino SRL in November 2014. (A “Società a responsabilità limitata” is one form of Italian limited-liability company.) They have been a major producer of Arduino boards from the very beginning and recently registered the domain arduino.org.

Around the time of the name change [Martino] sold his shares to a Swiss firm Gheo SA and [Federico Musto] was appointed CEO. Gheo SA is owned and directed by [Musto], who also runs a design consultancy based in the US and Taiwan called dog hunter, LLC.

dog hunter and [Musto] helped develop the Arduino Yun, a mashup of an Arduino with an OpenWRT-compatible WiFi router. dog hunter also runs the Linino.org website to support the Linux distribution that’s running on the router part of the Yun.

In short, on one side is Arduino LLC, run by the original Arduino Five and hosting arduino.cc. On the other is now called Arduino SRL, run by a former co-developer [Federico Musto] who bought out the largest producer of Arduino boards and opened up arduino.org.

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Cheap, dirty and perfect V-Groove Foam Cutter

If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Conversely, if you have the right tool for every job, it makes the difference between pro and amateur. [ftregan] needs to cut perfect V-grooves in foam for many of his projects, especially building RC planes. He wasn’t too satisfied with the results using his Xacto knife. And a proper tool was going to set him back by almost $25, but following that example he built his own version of the tool for much less.

Two pieces of wood cut at a 45 degree angle are held between two flat support pieces. A pair of regular shaving blades form the cutting elements. While it looks simple, it’s important to get the angles and blade directions correct. A central wooden wedge holds the two blades in place. He also added a small guide marker that let’s you cut precise straight grooves. [ftregan] built the tool to allow cutting 6mm thick foam but given that it’s so quick and cheap to build, we guess it’s easy to make a few of these to allow cutting different thicknesses of foam. We’re sure that many of you will find different or better ways of doing this, but considering [ftregan] spent just 15 minutes cooking this up, it’s not too bad, especially since the results are mighty good.

Another method of cutting foam is with hot wire. Check out this DIY Foam Cutter that we featured earlier.

Design & Build Part 2: Multi-Band, Phasing SSB, and SDR

 

Amateur radio is the ultimate hacker’s hobby. You can design, build, and put on the air your own high power transceivers. And with this homemade gear you are able to reach out directly, not relying on any infrastructure whatsoever, to connect with people all over the world. It is a thrilling experience to communicate with that long distance station using equipment you created, where you know at that instant what every single transistor is doing as you key down the mic.

In a previous post I described how SSB radio equipment worked and provided an example of a single-band 20m SSB transceiver. In this post I will discuss a multi-band SSB transceiver, an entire homemade amateur station including amplifiers, and conclude with software defined radio (SDR) that you can make in one weekend.

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Arduino Zero Pro Soft Release?

There’s an updated product page for the Arduino Zero, now called the Arduino Zero Pro, up on Arduino.org, one of the two dueling “Arduinos”.

We first covered the Arduino Zero in May 2014, and shortly thereafter even got to see a development prototype in the flesh. Based an Atmel’s ARM Cortex-M0+ chip, it’s built on a faster processor than the AVR Arduini, and it includes Atmel’s Embedded Debugger which serves as a USB-to-serial channel and on-chip debugging peripheral. But so far all we’ve seen is the prototype.

Now, there’s schematics and Eagle files available that are dated January 7, 2015. The Arduino.org site says that the Zero Pro is “Available now!” but we couldn’t see any in stock yet at any of our favorite online electronics distributors. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places (unlikely) or maybe it’s just a matter of time.

Anyway, two things struck us in our casual perusal of the new Zero Pro info.

First of all, compared to (pictures of) the prototype versions, there’s more and larger decoupling capacitors scattered all over the board, from the power supply to the Embedded Debugger chip, to a really beefy 4.7uF tantalum capacitor buffering the analog reference voltage level. This suggests there’s been some real-world testing and a shakedown of some of the prototype’s design bugs. That’s all good, and we hope it’s a sign that it’s really coming to market soon.

Secondly, given the ongoing trademark dispute, even the annotations to the schematic for the Zero Pro become interesting. On opening up either the PDF schematic (PDF, naturally) or any of the Eagle files, there’s the usual “Do not finalize a design with this information” boilerplate. But where it used to read “Arduino is a registered trademark. Use of the ARDUINO name must be compliant with http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Policy ” it now reads:

“Arduino” name and logo are trademarks registered by Arduino S.r.l. in Italy, in the European Union and in other countries of the world.

(After noticing this change, we went back and compared the “rev3″ Uno schematics PDF on arduino.cc to the “rev3E” schematics on arduino.org. Yup, same change in the legal notice.)

We’re not lawyers, but one of the “other countries of the world” that’s conspicuously missing from the claim is the U.S. of A. where Arduino LLC presumably holds the trademark. We’re still trying to make sense of all this, but it’s funny to see the legal battle playing itself out in annotations of Eagle schematics, no?

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Arduino vs Arduino legal battle and, of course, reviews of new hardware as it comes out.

And thanks [Marc] for the tip to the new board release.

NXP & Freescale Merge

Buyouts, acquisitions, and mergers of semiconductor companies are not unfamiliar territory for anyone who deals with chips and components for a living. Remember Mostek? That’s STMicroelectronics now. The switches used to type this post – Cherry blues – were made by ON Semiconductor. Remember Motorola? Freescale.

Today marks another merger, this time between NXP and Freescale. The merger will result in a $40 Billion dollar company, putting it in the top ten largest semiconductor companies.

Hackaday readers should know NXP for being the only company ever to produce an ARM microcontroller in a DIP package along with thousands of other cool components. Freescale is perhaps best known for their i.MX6 series of ARM processors, but of course both companies have a portfolio that stretches back decades and is filled with tens of thousands of parts.

Arduino v. Arduino

Arduino LLC is suing Arduino Srl (the Italian version of an LLC). Sounds confusing? It gets juicier. What follows is a summary of the situation as we learned it from this article at MakeMagazin.de (google translatrix)

Arduino LLC is the company founded by [Massimo Banzi], [David Cuartielles], [David Mellis], [Tom Igoe] and [Gianluca Martino] in 2009 and is the owner of the Arduino trademark and gave us the designs, software, and community support that’s gotten the Arduino where it is. The boards were manufactured by a spinoff company, Smart Projects Srl, founded by the same [Gianluca Martino]. So far, so good.

Things got ugly in November when [Martino] and new CEO [Federico Musto] renamed Smart Projects to Arduino Srl and registered arduino.org (which is arguably a better domain name than the old arduino.cc). Whether or not this is a trademark infringement is waiting to be heard in the Massachussetts District Court.

According to this Italian Wired article, the cause of the split is that [Banzi] and the other three wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other firms freely, while [Martino] and [Musto] at the company formerly known as Smart Projects want to list on the stock market and keep all production strictly in the Italian factory.

Naturally, a lot of the original Arduino’s Open Source Hardware credentials and ethos are hanging in the balance, not to mention its supply chain and dealer relationships. However the trademark suit comes out, we’re guessing it’s only going to be the first in a series of struggles. Get ready for the Arduino wars.

We’re not sure if this schism is at all related to the not-quite-open-source hardware design of the Yun, but it’s surely the case that the company is / the companies are going through some growing pains right now.

Thanks [Philip Steffan] for the pointer to the MakeMagazin.DE article. (And for writing it.)