Don’t bring your 3d printer to MakerFaire

This could easily be called “the year of the 3d printer”. They are in the news, in every hackerspace, and at every event. This last one is the one I’m going to focus on here. All the coverage we’ve seen as well as our personal experience shows that MakerFaires are filled with 3d printers. At MakerFaire K. C., there were so many that I lost count. I didn’t even bother taking pictures or stopping to look after a while. Many were makerbots, though a few repraps were present too.

If you want to be noticed at MakerFaire, DON’T BRING A 3D PRINTER AS YOUR SOLE DISPLAY.

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STM32 demo code carries extra (hidden?) copyrights

Recently I started a repository that houses a template which may be used to compile STM32F0 projects with a GCC toolchain. There are two code packages from STM that I used when putting this together, the firmware for the Discovery board itself, and the Standard Peripheral Library for the chip family. I read the license agreements in the root of both packages and I think they’re quite fair. Basically the agreement is you can use them for any purposes as long as the code is only being used on STM hardware. Fair enough.

You can image I was quite upset so see a comment from a reader stating that I have a copyright violation with one of the files in the repo. It seems the linker script that is given as an example for Atollic’s TrueSTUDIO has it’s own extremely strict copyright:

** (c)Copyright Atollic AB.
** You may use this file as-is or modify it according to the needs of your
** project. Distribution of this file (unmodified or modified) is not
** permitted. Atollic AB permit registered Atollic TrueSTUDIO(R) users the
** rights to distribute the assembled, compiled & linked contents of this
** file as part of an application binary file, provided that it is built
** using the Atollic TrueSTUDIO(R) toolchain.

First off, I’m in violation just for posting the file in a repository. But read a bit deeper. Any code that is compiled with this using a GCC toolchain also breaks the copyright unless it’s Atollic’s toolchain.

My beef here is that STM is distributing this. Why? Why put something so restrictive into a software library with such an otherwise reasonable license? Surely there are many engineers at STM capable of writing a linker script that they could release under their own license which would work with TrueSTUDIO. And, it would have the added benefit of allowing other GCC-based toolchains a convenient (and legal) method of linking code.

So I’ve completely removed the file from the repository. If you were one of the ten people watching it on github, this had the unintended consequence of dumping your watch request. In the mean time I’m trying to learn how to write my own linker. This guide regarding Cortex-M3 linkers has been a great help. If you have the skills to contribute a working linker script, please issue a pull request or raise an issue over at github.

Where is my *%$#! virtual reality display?

For years I’ve been asking, loudly and frequently, where’s my F*&#$%ing virtual reality?  I realize that many of us, depending on what influenced our dreams of VR will have different definitions, so let me elaborate. When I was a kid, I played Dactyl Nightmare at the Union station in St. Louis. You stepped inside this “stage”, donned a massive clunky headache inducing HMD, and brandished a floating joystick of doom to challenge other players and a flying Pterodactyl.  I was awe struck. My 12 year old brain decided that this was the future.

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Tales from the Hackaday “tip line”

surprisingly accurate portrayal of Caleb

Lets just start right off and acknowledge that the word “Hack” is in our site name. We all see it. It is right there, in plain English. However, anyone who spends more than a few nanoseconds looking down below that big name, will quickly see that the kind of hacking we do is more like McGyver and less like Operation Swordfish.

This exceedingly obvious point is missed by many, many people. We get tons of requests coming in for various acts of hackery. They range from nonsense gibberish to flagrant lies. Yeah, sure you forgot your password and the recovery system isn’t working. Oh they stole your website but you can’t prove that you’re the owner? Hrm, you want to be a master hacker and are seeking our guidance on how to steal money?

Join me after the break for a few actual examples.

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Becoming intelligent designers and saving the RepRap

While Hack a Day’s modus operandi is serving up hacks from around the Internet, sometimes we feel the need to exercise a bit of editorial freedom. A thousand words is a bit awkward for the front page, so feel free to skip the break and head straight to the full text of this article.

It’s no secret myself and my fellow writers for Hack a Day are impressed with the concept of a personal 3D printer. We’ve seen many, many, builds over the years where a 3D printer is a vital tool or the build itself.

Personally, I love the idea of having a 3D printer. I’ve built a Prusa Mendel over the past few months – Sanguinololu electronics, [Josef Prusa]’s PCB heated bed, and a very nice Budaschnozzle 1.0 from the awesome people at LulzBot. I’ve even made some really cool bits of plastic with it, including the GEB cube from the inside cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach (a very tricky object to realize in a physical form, but not a bad attempt for the third thing I’ve ever printed, including calibration cubes). Right now I’m working on the wheel design for a rocker-bogie suspension system I hope to finish by early August when the next Mars rover lands. My Prusa is a wonderful tool; it’s not a garage filled with a mill, lathe, and woodworking tools, but it’s a start. I think of it as the Shopsmith of the 21st century.

Lately I’ve become more aware of the problems the RepRap and 3D printer community will have to deal with in the very near future, and the possible solution that led me to write this little rant.

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Petition for DMCA exemptions regarding Rooting/unlocking gadgets

So you’ve been rooting devices eh? If you get caught you’re headed for the big house, the lockup, the pen, the joint, they’ll send you up the river, you better be careful! Seriously though, if you buy a device and circumvent the security features should that in itself be breaking the law? We’re not talking about stealing intellectual property, like playing copied games on a chipped system (yeah, that’s stealing). We mean unlocking a device so that you can use it for what you wish. Be it your own prototyping, or running open-source applications. Unfortunately if the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions expire it will be a crime.

Thankfully, [Bunnie] is doing something about this. You may remember him as the guy that found most of the ridiculous security holes in the original Xbox, or the brain behind the Chumby. Now’s he’s got an online petition where your voice can be heard. Speak up and let the US politicians know why unlocking a device isn’t a crime.

[via Twitter]

Addressing Microchip’s open source problem

microchip_call_for_open_source

Hackaday alum and owner of Dangerous Prototypes [Ian Lesnet] recently wrote an editorial piece calling out Microchip on some of their less than friendly attitudes towards open source.

[Ian] and his company use PIC microcontrollers extensively in their projects, and they have quite a high opinion of their products overall. The gripe that he has (and thinks you should have too) is regarding Microchip’s approach to open source.

You see, Microchip invested in the Arduino IDE and released the chipKIT, a 32-bit Arduino compatible development board, along with big promises of “playing nice” with the open source community. The problem, according to [Ian], is that while Microchip’s compilers are based on GCC, they “keep some special sauce locked up”, which means that certain parts of the chipKIT toolchain are not open. Many in the community, including [Ian] had high hopes for the chipKIT based on the successes seen by Atmel’s open source initiatives, but many things are still locked up behind closed licenses.

An example of this unfriendly attitude towards open source can be seen in Digilent’s recently released network shield. It supports Ethernet and USB features of the chipKIT MEGA, but the TCP/IP and USB stacks are completely closed source. Digilent pushed hard to get the ability to release open drivers for the board, but it was a battle they ultimately lost. This behavior creates roadblocks for seasoned developers of open source products such as Dangerous Prototypes, as well as the curious beginner, which is why [Ian] is making a point in bringing these issues to light.

[Ian] urges Microchip to give something significant back to the community they are tapping, a result which can only be achieved by speaking up. Be sure to check out his editorial, and if after reading it you have any interest in letting your voice be heard, drop Microchip a line and let them know that their one-way relationship with the open source community is something you would like see change.