Guest Rant: Ham Radio — Hackers’ Paradise

meara-bill-rant-wordbench

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by [Bill Meara]

The suits at Hack-a-Day reached out to SolderSmoke HQ and asked me to send in a few words about why their readers should take a fresh look at ham radio. Here goes:

First, realize that today’s ham radio represents a tremendous opportunity for technical exploration and adventure. How about building a station (and software) that will allow you to communicate by bouncing digital signals off the moon? How about developing a new modulation scheme to send packets not down the fiber optic network, but around the world via the ionosphere, or via ham radio’s fleet of satellites? How about bouncing your packets off the trails left by meteors? This is not your grandfather’s ham radio.

You can meet some amazing people in this hobby: Using a very hacked-together radio station (my antenna was made from scrap lumber and copper refrigerator tubing) I’ve spoken to astronaut hams on space stations. Our “low power, slow signal” group includes a ham named Joe Taylor. Joe is a radio astronomer who won the Nobel Prize for Physics. He’s now putting his software skills to use in the development of below-the-noise receiving systems for ham radio. Join me after the break for more on the topic. [Read more...]

Rant: Why I love what the Chromecast stands for

chromecast-and-box

I’ve had my hands on this Chromecast for almost a week now and I love it. Years ago I hacked my first Xbox after seeing [Kevin Rose] do it on The Screensavers (I did the hardware mod but that’s inconsequential). Why did I do this? So that I could run Xbox Media Center, the predecessor of XBMC. Since then I’ve dreamed of a device which can be hung on the back of the TV with Velcro and run XBMC. We basically got there with the Raspberry Pi, but the Chromecast is the form-factor that I had always envisioned. This lets me watch Netflix, while the RPi runs XBMC. The two are match made in heaven for under a hundred bucks.

That’s why I love the Chromecast device itself, but the bigger picture is that I love what it stands for. Keep reading to see what i mean.

[Read more...]

The first 3d printed gun has been fired, and I don’t care.

3d-printed-gunSeveral people have sent us this story. I’ve seen it everywhere. A lot of people are upset, on several sides.  A gun has been 3d printed that can actually fire a round.

First, we have people scared that this will bring undetectable guns to people who wouldn’t have had access before. Then we have the gun fans that are reacting to the others with shouts of freedom and liberty and stuff.  The 3d printing community has had mixed reactions, but many are concerned that this will harm 3d printing in general.

I simply don’t care.

[Read more...]

A quick tour of my workbench

Whenever I release a hackaday video, I invariably get comments and emails about my workbench. Some people are telling me to clean up, others are asking me about things they see in the background.

This isn’t just a set that I film on. Obviously my videos aren’t high enough quality for people to assume that either. This is my actual workbench, made and used by my grandfather.  I do enjoy keeping it decorated though. I try to keep a piece of as many past projects as possible hanging on my bench to serve not only as inspiration to me, but also as an interesting backdrop for the videos.

I make no attempts to hide my upcoming projects when I shoot videos. If you pay close enough attention, you can sometimes see projects appear on my bench in videos before the actual project video hits youtube.

I love my workbench. You should love yours too. Hey, maybe you could do a tour of it and post it on youtube for us to admire! Just try not to say “workbench” as many times in a row as I did.

Top 10 Hacking Failures in movies: part 2

After going through the original quick list we tossed together, people were chiming in like crazy. We felt another 10 might help satiate the desire to smirk at the silliness of tech portrayed in movies and TV. Gathering examples from your comments, we have compiled part 2.  While I would have loved to narrow this down to a specific item like incorrect lingo or screen grabs, I didn’t quite have enough specific scenes to do it yet.  Be sure to keep the comments coming and be specific, I haven’t seen many of these till someone points it out.

[Read more...]

Top 10 hacking failures in movies

It had been requested that we make a short video covering the top worst hacks in movies. Being the community that we are, it seemed like an interesting request. We asked for your input, and you were happy to deliver! However, the proposition of creating a “top 10″ list turned out to be quite difficult. There were just SO MANY horrible scenes that I started thinking about how to even categorize them. We could probably to a “top 10″ in any of the following categories without even having to dig too deeply:

  • hacker lingo
  • mocked up interfaces
  • fake input devices
  • virus screen-takeover moments
  • access denied messages
  • hardware taped together

Honestly, after breaking it down in such a manner, making the top 10 movie hacking failures, felt painfully general. It is like making a list of “top 10 animals that ever existed”. The state of technology portrayal in movies is frankly abysmal. It is obvious that the only people who know less about tech than “hollywood” are the people making laws about it.

[Read more...]

Making it Easier to Build Firmware

OSHW Logo

Most microcontroller manufacturers give you some kind of free development toolchain or IDE with their silicon products. Often it’s crippled, closed source, and a large download. This is pretty inconvenient when you want to have firmware that’s easy to build and distribute. I’ve found many of these toolchains to be annoying to use, and requiring closed source software to build open source firmware seems less than desirable.

It’s possible to build code for most microcontrollers using command line tools. You’ll need a compiler, the device manufacturer’s libraries and header files, and some method of flashing the device. A lot of these tools are open source, which lets you have an open source toolchain that builds your project.

Setting up these tools can be a bit tricky, so I’m building a set of templates to make it easier. Each template has instructions on setting up the toolchain, a Makefile to build the firmware, and sample code to get up and running quickly. It’s all public domain, so you can use it for whatever you’d like.

Currently there’s support for AVR, MSP430, Stellaris ARM, and STM32L1. More devices are in the works, and suggestions are welcome. Hopefully this helps people get started building firmware that’s easy to build and distribute with projects.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97,511 other followers