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.

Hackaday Comment Policy; We’re cleaning up.

Sit down for a moment commenters, we need to talk.
Yes, you all knew this post was coming one day. We’ve talked about this topic at length internally, and we have decided that we’re going to clean up our act. For some time, Hack a Day has been growing a reputation as the prime source of extremely negative, vulgar, rude, sexist, and inflammatory comments in the hacking community. We’ve had complaints from readers (yes there are readers that aren’t commenters, thousands of them) and fellow members of the hacking community about this problem for a long time. [Eliot] even mentioned it back in 2009 when a job applicant expressed concern. We’ve nicely tried to steer things to the positive in a variety of ways, from suggesting commenters to be more supportive, jokingly making a troll detector, and simply stating that the comments need to stay “on topic and nice”.

When we see things like these  tweets by [Jeri Ellsworth], we hang our heads in shame.

She’s not the only one. We actually get this quite regularly. As our readership grows, we see it more and more often. We get emails explaining that people have done a hack but don’t really want to post it because the commenters will just tear it apart in an unnecessarily aggressive and negative way. We have actually had people ask us to remove their projects and comments due to uncivil behavior. Constructive criticism is good, but insulting and angry deconstruction isn’t helpful to anyone.

We’re better than that aren’t we? We are fast, agile and fairly unrestricted in our content. We should be at the center of this community, not on the outer edges, reviled by many for the behavior of a few. Hackaday should be the teacher at the front of the classroom, not the kid in the back throwing wadded up paper at the kids in the front.

What we’re doing:
First off, as far as we can foresee, we will never close the comments section of our web site down. Hackaday should be a home for the entire hacking community and as such, you will always be able to settle in and have a reasonable discussion. We do not want to implement any sort of G+ integration or similar, nor do we want to require registration to leave a comment. We will if we absolutely have to, but lets try to avoid that.

Comment sections and forums have often been a place where negative comments can get out of hand. There are many theories for why this happens, but the result is usually the same: rules and moderation. Many sites have already laid down the law and are adhering to their goals of keeping things civil. We realize that we are to blame if our image is this poor, so we are doing something about it.

From this point moving forward, Hackaday comments will be civil. If you are posting an empty in-joke (“where’s the Arduino?”), a declaration of “not a hack”, a racist, sexist, completely off topic, platform-hating, or personally insulting comment, your post will be deleted. This will be at the discretion of whichever Hackaday staff member happens to see your comment first.

Can you criticize Hackaday?
You can’t walk into a business and start screaming about how much they suck without being escorted out immediately.  Same thing applies here.

We are always hard at work trying to find interesting hacks, makes, repairs, tweaks, videos, etc. that appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. We put this web site together for you, as well as 200,000 other individuals.  Not everything will appeal to everybody. That would be impossible. However, if you don’t like a post or project, just skip it – we’ll have another one ready in short order. We will feature projects that appeal to the seasoned EE as well as the complete beginner. We were all beginners at one time, and it would have been great to have something like Hack a Day around back then to show us hacks ranging from simple to advanced.

From time to time however, Hack a Day can be a less than desirable place to hang out, especially for those who are coming here for the first time. We don’t want to chase off young, creative minds. As a community, we should be helping those that are just starting to venture into hacking electronics.

If you have a problem, email us. You’ll probably actually get a response that way too.  My email is Caleb@ and you’re always welcome to email me personally. Again, please be civil (yep, I’ve had my share of death threats).

Grammar/spelling corrections and dead links:
No need to comment, just email us. A message to team@ will suffice, but you will probably get a quicker response by emailing the author directly. We know we have issues – we’re often so excited about a hack that some little goof slips by. Email us and we’ll fix it. Don’t write a 3 paragraph comment about how important the oxford comma is, or how we’re obviously incapable of functioning because we accidentally flubbed a word. We promise we will never intentionally screw up some grammar, spelling, or punctuation.

What you can will do to help:
Be constructive.

Every project here probably has an area that could be improved, or a part that was done inefficiently. Support your fellow hackers by offering your expertise. Explain why something isn’t working, or how you would improve it. Don’t slam them for their shortcomings. Also keep in mind that different people go about things different ways. Poster X didn’t build something the way you did?  Offer an alternative without being insulting. If someone chooses to use their brand new Core i7 monster system to drive a few LEDs, that’s their prerogative. Inside, we all know that it is not the most efficient use of money or technology, there’s no reason to beat that dead horse in public.

You know what else encourages hackers to do more projects? A pat on the back. I talk to people all the time who say that they just don’t have any constructive criticism for the projects, so they don’t comment. Well, that and they know they’ll bring the ire of the worst commenters if they happen to ask a silly question. Drop in and say what you like about a project. Those positive posts might just be enough to encourage that hacker to take it a step further. How many projects have you seen dropped simply because people thought there wasn’t any interest? Tons. If you like a project, let them know.

To encourage this, the writers are going to be keeping an eye on the comments. Randomly, when we see someone being exceptionally helpful, we’ll contact them and send them a prize. This will most likely be in the form of a hackaday sticker, but we’ll see if we can’t find some other fun things as well.

Help us make Hack a Day great. Please.

[Update: we're working on a comment flagging system currently]

[Update: threading and comment reporting have been added]

[Phillip Torrone] on why all makers should learn Chinese

phil_torrone_why_every_maker_should_learn_chinese

A while ago when he was working in China, [Phillip Torrone] started learning Mandarin Chinese in order to help him communicate more efficiently with his peers. Unfortunately, once he returned to the US, he slowly started forgetting most of what he had learned. He recently wrote a piece over at Make: explaining why he’s attempting to learn Mandarin once again, and why you as a maker should consider doing the same.

He starts off citing the economic trends which indicate that China’s global GDP share will likely bypass that of the US in a few short years. While the stats might be a bit boring he says, the rise of a new global superpower is nothing to shrug off.

Economic changes aside, he has found that through his workings at Adafruit and other tech companies, he is frequently being exposed to more and more Chinese on a daily basis. Between emails with suppliers, data sheets, and schematics, he says that learning Chinese is a must for makers.

What do you think? Do any of you full-time makers and hackers see the same trend in your jobs? Let us know in the comments.

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